Reflecting on 2011

We are in Vermont this week between Christmas and New Years at the farm where Ashley grew up.  This morning there is a dusting of sugar snow on the ground, a clearing sky and flat light and the dogs are running joyful circles in the yard.  The oven is on and bread is baking.  What could be better really? In less than a week 2011 will be gone and we will be launched into another year.  Cadwell Collaborative has been up and running for three and a half years now. Ashley and I are enjoying our work and our collaborations with schools and educators in so many productive and happy ways.  During this month we have been updating our website and blog and we are almost finished with this round.  A wonderful friend and colleague, illustrator and graphic artist, Penny Dullaghan, is helping us.

This morning I came across an idea on a photographer friend's blog to reflect on the year in photographs, Beautiful 2011.   We will do that in this post, sharing several of the new photos that are up on our website and a few other favorites from our work in schools this year.  With continuing thanks to the schools where we have worked as part of learning teams in 2011: The St. Michael SchoolThe College SchoolMaplewood Richmond Heights School District; Indianapolis Public School Butler University Laboratory School; and Opal School.

Singing the Praises of Music in School

Last week Ashley and I attended holiday concerts at three of the schools where we work in St. Louis.  Last Wednesday, we went to the Maplewood Richmond Heights Winter Market where students sold bee products from wax and honey that they had harvested from their own bees.  They researched how to and then created  tea lights, lip balm, tree ornaments, and soap.  And, of course, there was golden, local MRH honey for sale. These students are working on a triple bottom line business plan for their small non profit business.  The holiday concert which followed the Winter Market featured the MRH exemplary bands and and choirs.  Several students from this small district have been chosen out of hundreds of competitors state wide to play for a state music educators conference in 2012.

We also were so happy to attend the St. Michael School holiday concert where students sang songs and carols in different languages and from different religions surrounded by a glow of twinkling lights.  On Friday, we witnessed the extraordinary talent of all ages at The College School at their Winter Arts Share.  At all of these events we were in awe of the skill, passion, presence and grace of all of the students ranging from age 3 to 18 who sang and danced and played with all of their hearts.  It is such a privilege to see all three schools' students on stage at this time of year.

Ashley and I are  lucky to work with these three schools where we collaborate with dedicated educators, students and families.

Especially at the darkest time of the year, what light and joy they offer the world of education, their communities and families!

We wish all of you a joyous holiday!  Louise and Ashley

Vea Vecchi: Beauty and Ethics are Foundational for our Future

I just listened to an impassioned TEDx Talk given in Reggio Emilia, Italy a few months ago by Vea Vecchi.  I found the TEDx because I was reading Jennifer Azzariti's blog, In Dialogue.  Jennifer is a friend and colleague who I greatly admire and with whom I have been lucky enough to work.  We were together in Reggio Emilia and Ligonchio last July.  There, we both had the privilege of spending a week with Italian educators and other educators from all over the world in the stunning natural environment of the Apennine mountains.  Among those we spent the week with was Vea Vecchi, an atelierista who worked closely with Loris Malaguzzi, the founder and philosopher behind the Reggio Approach.

Vea recently authored  Art and Creativity in Reggio Emilia which I recommend to everyone  who is interested in how children learn and the role of creativity in learning.  It is a beautiful book written in a direct, narrative voice.  Vea tells lots of learning stories, some about her grandchildren that are enchanting and amazing.  The kind of stories we might all tell if we were keen observers and listeners, and life long researchers of creativity and the imagination.

The TEDx Talk is in Italian.  It is worth watching even if you don't understand the Italian to feel Vea's passion, courage and vision.

A few excerpts:

We are convinced that it only through education that we can confront the difficulties of our time that have the attention of everyone, that humiliate us as citizens of the world.  What is a school and an education of quality?

For one, we give so much importance to the environment.  Beyond the right of having a school is the right to have a school that is beautiful and taken care of with an attitude of care so that parents, children, and teachers want to come to school every day.  We have in some ways confused luxury with care.

The atelier has brought many materials and techniques, but also has illuminated a need, not only for children, but for human beings to communicate in a way that rationality and imagination travel together.  We believe in a multiplicity of languages that are integrated and not separated.  We believe that this makes learning and understanding more rich and more complete.

Poetic thought does not separate the imaginative from the cognitive, emotion from the rational, empathy from deep investigation.  It lights up all the senses and perceptions and cultivates an intense relationship with what is all around us.  It constructs thoughts that are not conformist.  And this creates two important elements: solidarity and participation, both of which are the foundation of democracy.

To conclude, we believe that identifying and researching beauty and ethics is the indispensible foundation for a livable, sustainable future that everyone speaks about but that seems so difficult to bring about.  It is only with an intelligent heart, with courage and with vision that we can proceed.

Join us in April for an outstanding professional development opportunity!


We are thrilled about the second Seminar that Cadwell Collaborative will co-host for educators here in St. Louis in April:

Myth Busters: Challenge Assumptions and Learn for the Future

We are fortunate to collaborate with three schools: The College School; The Maplewood Richmond Heights School District; and The St. Michael School.

Participants will 

  • participate in student led tours of eco school yards and innovative school design
  • observe dynamic classes and students in action
  • learn in presentations by students and teachers
  • join in Open Space dialogue and idea sharing
  • challenge assumptions and learn for the future

A Seminar for K-12 Educators

April 19 & 20, 2012  

St. Louis, Missouri

Join us as we challenge common assumptions about schools and explore new ways of thinking about learning in the 21st century. 

Assumption: Independent and public schools do not collaborate.  Instead, learn from the dynamic collaboration and professional growth among two independent schools and a public district.

Assumption: Students don't do real work in school.  Instead, witness engaged, high achieving students in action, learning and working for a healthy, hopeful future.

Assumption: Students are not yet citizens.  Instead, explore with teachers and students stories of effective projects that contribute to their communities.

Assumption: Teachers deliver curricula, students receive it.  Instead, observe students and teachers collaborate and work together to create effective results.

Assumption: Tests are the best measure of achievement.  Instead, look at a long view of achievement through electronic portfolios of exemplary work and student reflection on progress over time.


discounts for groups of 4 or more

limited scholarships available 

questions may directed by email to:

or call 314-614-9889