Everything New


Welcome Yule! and Welcome almost New Year 2015! We are announcing four very new and very exciting events.  We have a NEW BABY! in the family.  Born on December 18 at 1 a.m. on her due date, the first girl in our immediate family to arrive in more years than we can count and we are thrilled. Delilah Mae Cadwell is now one week old.  We had such a blessed Christmas time with the new tiny one and her brother who is so lovely with her and her uncles and auntie and mother and father in Boston. We are truly grateful and enthralled.

cadwell collaborative asher and delilah

Secondly, we have a NEW WEBSITE! Go to http://cadwellcollaborative.com to see it. We are grateful to Penny Dullaghan for designing it and working so hard to make it beautiful and functional.  We are thrilled about this new turn of events. Please tell us what you think!


And then, we have a new BOOK! In the Spirit of the Studio, second edition is due to be published in March in time for the NAREA conference in NYC. The four editors, Lella Gandini, Lynn Hill, Charles Schwall and I are so pleased with the new book with a new cover, once again designed by Pam Bliss. Make sure to find it and read it. It is an updated, important and timely read.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 8.42.10 PM

Finally, Ashley and I have a new HOUSE! We closed on a Boston condo on Halloween of this year and officially move in in two days, just in time for the new year.  We are thrilled about this move, this new second home in the city, that is very close to our new BABY, her brother and her family.  More soon on all of these announcements. IMG_1598


















In the meantime, we wish for you, wonderful things in store as we head into 2015, with hope, joy and renewed energy for our dedication to education, family, our earth and our lives here together.

We wish all of you the happiest of NEW YEARS!


Professional Development at Buckingham Browne & Nichols


Photography for BB&N viewbook update and other publications. Last week Louise and I came off a 6 week fall road trip: Boston, Buffalo, St. Louis, Memphis, Indianapolis, and back to Boston.  Throughout we were working with our client schools…and friends.  In future blogs we’ll catch up on more specifics from our experiences with each stop, but for now I’d like to point to the book ends of the trip,  Buckingham Browne & Nichols (BB&N) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In the beginning of October Louise and I spent a day with the BB&N preprimary (“Beginners”) through second grade faculty.  We helped them to initiate a Lead Learning Team including administration and faculty representatives to ensure that leadership was shared by all involved in this Professional Development initiative.  We focused on reorganizing some of their classrooms to demonstrate how much the environment can create contexts for dynamic, engaged learning.  We helped develop a pattern of planning meetings with protocols, where teachers could reflect on their projects and wonder about new ways to approach old studies.  When we returned five weeks later, we were struck by the changes underway.  Perhaps most impressive... at the end of the day with the whole group of about 20 teachers and administrators, two teachers, a second grade teacher and a science teacher, presented work they’d done over the past month.

The second grade teacher, Susan Kinsky, described how she transformed a typical, My Hopes and Dreams project (something she’d done every year for while…the same way) into a dynamic investigation of how personal strengths weave together in a classroom community.  What had been a one day, even one period exercise was transformed into several days of intermittent and ongoing discussions, compositions, reflections, revisions, and creative problem solving.  Their emblematic product was a “quilt” of their ideas.

Susan’s told us that her goal at the outset was to genuinely engage the students in making something meaningful and aesthetically pleasing.  She also confided that while she wanted to pull out/allow more student voice, she also wanted to maintain some control.  And, she also wanted to slow down…to allow time for thoughts and ideas to evolve.

In the end she observed that:

the students did become genuinely engaged…that  they were happy to spend more time

they used each others work for inspiration and were naturally inclined to work on a series of drafts

their images became pure and honest

they discovered cardboard for the background and the ribbon to unify the piece

their partnerships were generative…aspirational

they invented strategies for collaboration and for building consensus


The science teacher, Maria Elana Derrien, described how she rethought an often used “unit” on drawing and reporting on a plant or animal.  Her innovation began with the idea we had planted in October, to encourage the use of many drafts.  We had shown the faculty the marvelous video of Ron Berger revisiting this idea with a group of students, looking at Austin’s ButterflySimilar to the second grade teacher’s experience, what had been a straight forward one or two period unit in science, turned into an eight session, complex investigation into individual life forms in their animal tank: entailing close observation of detail, work on multiple drafts of drawings, discovery of new resources and several drafts of summary reports.

Maria Elena shared the following reflectons:

the drawings were not so much about talent, they became more about close observation 

it became about seeing details…real observation came from themselves, not from me… they were developing a habit of mind for precision

the students enjoyed going deeper…spending more time…working harder

the students worked together naturally…they became a strong learning community

Susan and Maria Elena transformed what I think of as standard “units” into explorations/investigations that were more open to real discovery; that engendered good hard work; and that resulted in high level achievement.  Along the way, the time they spent resulted in much deeper thinking and more meaningful understanding.  And YES, the basic skills of reading, writing and logical thinking were significantly developed as well.




When it rains it pours, or it least that is the way it seems to me.  I am referring both to creativity and the connections that have started to fire all of a sudden and all over the place in my brain and memory as well as the real rain that is now pelting down in Boston.  Last week we were in Indianapolis where I was inspired by my lovely friend and colleague, Penny Dullaghan who was all about leaves! Leaf photos, leaf prints, leaf sculptures hiding her family, even leaf constellations made from sweet gum leaves...you can see most of these on instagram. Take a look! Penny's creativity and the fun she was having rubbed off on me.

Now, I am drinking tea, staying warm inside while looking out the back kitchen windows of our city condo at the yellow maple leaves that are muted in gray mist, now falling in the steady wind.  During the last few days I have played with leaves too...collected them, lined them up, made leaf boats, photographed them, even made leaf portraits inspired by my friend and colleague, Sarah Hassing atelierista at The College School, who does this kind of work often with children.

Today, Ashley and I went to the De Cordova Museum in Lincoln, MA to join the Hawkins Centers of Learning group for a morning of messing about with water and other materials all centered around pond water and a current exhibition at the De Cordova, Walden revisited.  The Hawkins Gathering was was made up of teachers of young children, artists, botanists, engineers, museum educators, professors...such a diverse group! We had been given readings to think upon, excerpts from Thoreau's Walden, excerpts from David Hawkin's thoughts on Pond Studies and an article on learning to see.  So many perspectives to consider, so much to learn about, so much fun messing about.  We were also fortunate to visit the classrooms of  Lincoln Nursery School which is housed in the former artist studios at the museum. What a wonderful place to consider Reggio-inspired environments, provocations and student work.

One more leaf connection.  While in Indianapolis, working with IPS/Butler Lab School, I worked alongside studio teacher, Rachel Kesling to encourage a small group of kindergarten and first grade students to study some maple, tulip and oak leaves collected from around the school grounds.  What did they notice? What colors? shapes, features, textures? Could they draw contours slowly as if following a small insect crawling around the edges of the leaf and inside the structure?

Journi noticed, "There are lots of different yellows and browns, not just one...like there is a light brown, a dark brown and a medium brown."

Benjamin said, "Look at this leaf!" (a smallish, skinny oak leaf), "There is barely room for this leaf to have a middle!"

Encouraging children to look closely and describe what they see, and listening closely to what they have to say, and noting it, is a fundamental tenet for the educators in Reggio Emilia that inspires many of us.  Likewise, asking children to draw what they see with the time and the proper tools is also critical to understanding how the world works and how to really see.  By the way, have you rediscovered the third edition of The Hundred Languages of Children?  Such a rich, newly updated resource.  The last chapter by Edwards, Gandini and Forman lists 21 points about the work in Reggio Emilia for us to consider.  All of the points are provocative and worthy of much dialogue around our practice.  Among them, of course, are drawing (1), wondering (14) and group dialogue (19).  We highly recommend reading the entire new edition!

So...what are my themes in all this? Messing about, making connections, finding patterns, seeing, wondering, learning, playing, having fun, together, making beautiful work.  What could be more important?





Opal School Professional Development-Don't Miss it!


We have been good friends and colleagues with Opal School educators for over fifteen years.  We knew founder, Judy Graves when Opal School was still a dream of hers and her colleagues.   Now, Opal School, a program of Portland Children’s Museum, is a fee-based preschool and a K-5 Portland Public Charter School.  We travel to be with Opal colleagues whenever we can; we collaborate on learning initiatives and workshops and we are always grateful for their partnership in the journey to create meaningful, artful learning communities where we all become active and positive participants and contributors to the world around us. Every year, as a part of the mission as a public charter school, Opal offers many exciting learning opportunities.  Below please find a list of possibilities.  This year Opal is working with many dynamic and well known authors and thinkers in education! We recommend traveling to Opal. We believe that learning alongside Opal educators and the colleagues who they invite to work with them will enrich your experience as an educator immeasurably.

You can easily register on line by going here.

" With Opal’s civilized pace and tie to nature, your inviting classrooms and strong communities, you have managed to do something wondrous—you have created a school safe for dreaming.” 

Kirsten Truman • Teacher-Librarian • Portland Public Schools


with Vicki Vinton


December 9, 2014 • 6:30pm–8:30pm; December 10, 2014 • 8:30am–3:30pm

How do Opal School communities embrace the written word? How does a focus on “reading the world” help children “read the word”? Through stories collected in Opal School classrooms, we’ll look at how preschool and elementary readers authentically encounter text. Vicki Vinton—author of What Readers Really Do, The Power of Grammar, and the always engaging blog To Make a Prairie—joins us to discuss her work with children and teachers and will model some of those approaches with Opal students.




January 28, 2015 • 6:30pm–8:30pm; January 29–30, 2015 • 8:30am–4:00pm

Designed to immerse participants in Opal School practice, this multi-day workshop supports educators’ application of approaches to playful inquiry through negotiated curriculum. Visit Opal School classrooms in session to observe, analyze, and reflect on inquiry-based learning through the tools of the arts and sciences. Talk with teachers about the joys and challenges of a practice that holds a strong image of children as thinkers, planners, and contributors to the community. Mara Krechevsky and Ben Mardell, whose research with Harvard’s Project Zero has inspired Opal School’s approaches, will provide commentary as honored guests.

University credit available.


with Matt Glover


April 9, 2015 • 6:30pm–8:30pm; April 10, 2015 • 8:30am–3:30pm

What is the relationship between literacy and the arts? We’ll examine approaches developed at Opal School— including Story Workshop and Literacy Studio—and consider the growth of Opal students. Matt Glover, author of Already Ready, Projecting Possibilities for Writers, and Engaging Young Writers, will link his influential work with children and teachers around the world to what he observes at Opal School.


with Ann Pelo$600 • $500 Early Bird price through 12/31/14!

June 18–20, 2015

Every summer, hundreds of educators committed to recognizing, celebrating, and extending the creative and cognitive capacities of children join Opal School teacher-researchers for three full days of renewal through synthesis, dialogue, materials exploration, and reflection. This year’s theme examines the ways in which literacy and the arts build upon each other—a theme which resonates deeply in Opal School practices and connects the year’s workshops. Our time together is enhanced through the involvement of Ann Pelo, author of The Goodness of Rain, Rethinking Early Childhood Education, and The Language of Art.

University credit available.

Opal School, the Museum Center for Learning, and Portland Children’s Museum strengthen public education by provoking fresh ideas regarding conditions, environments, and relationships where creativity, curiosity, and the wonder of learning thrive. At each of the following offerings, Opal School teacher-researchers and invited guests will reflect with you on ongoing practice-based research with the intention of improving practice, advancing teacher professionalism, and transforming ideas about what is possible when working with children.



October 2014–June 2015

The Mentorship Program supports a small group of teachers seeking an in-depth experience of observation and reflection in Opal School’s preschool through fifth grade classrooms. The program allows participants to flexibly design a series of visitations to Opal classrooms
in session throughout the school year. This provides an opportunity for extended exposure to inquiry-based approaches to teaching and learning through the tools
of the arts and sciences. The program includes registration in Center workshops, the Summer Symposium, online offerings, and an ongoing discussion platform. Registration is limited. To apply, email thecenter@portlandcm.org.


The Museum Center for Learning offers online modules and eBooks to support, connect, and extend inquiry around the world. Visit portlandcm.org to learn more today!


Responding to your needs!

Contact us for scheduling and fees.

The Museum Center for Learning will bring the research 
of Opal School and Portland Children’s Museum to your organization. If your team of any size desires to expand its approaches, contact us to arrange an experience designed to meet your distinct needs, interests, and schedule.

Customized Opal Workshops can be held at your worksite, at Portland Children's Museum and Opal School, online,
or a combination of the three. Museum Center for Learning staff will support your investigation of a wide variety of topics. Duration of workshops can range from a few hours to long-term studies.

Email thecenter@portlandcm.org to start a conversation about how we can work together to nurture growth.



One Big Question at La Scuola


We have been working with La Scuola in Miami, Florida and the school’s intrepid director, Barbie Perez, for a decade.  Most recently, at the end of July, Ashley traveled to La Scuola to lead two days of professional development focused on mapping plans for the coming year.  Two years before, in a similar format, the faculty decided to focus on ONE BIG QUESTION for their project work, a new and challenging path.  They experienced great success with the question: What Is Food?  Last year they dove into: What Is Water? Ashley had piqued their interest in this path by showing them the work of The St. Michael School of Clayton, Missouri (SMSOC).  Over a 16 year period of developing inquiry-based project work, SMSOC evolved from pursuing as many as four projects in a school year, to a more refined and deeper focus on one big question that unified the experiences, research and discoveries at every grade level (from 3-year-olds to eighth graders).

Among the advantages that both SMSOC and La Scuola have found in this approach are:

  • increased collaboration among students and teachers, both within and between classes
  • increased excitement of both students and teachers to generate new questions from their research and discoveries, questions that deepen their understanding
  • increased sense of adventure in the whole process
  • increased connections made with the resources readily available in the immediate community
  • increased participation of parents in the process
  • increased willingness of the students to work hard on their research and compositions
  • more authentic connections between students' research and their understanding that leads to more authentic expressions of their understanding…expressions in forms that make more significant contributions to their immediate and extended community

In July, La Scuola faculty decided the coming year’s focus would be: What Is An Ecosystem?  Barbie just sent me their most recent newsletter where she and her teachers give brief descriptions of their project work so far.  It’s simply amazing…in just the first month of school!  As Barbie told me on the phone yesterday, The first day of school didn’t even feel like the first day of school.  Everyone already had an exciting experience to embark on.  The students became immediately engaged.  









In their summaries you read about babies in water experiencing the water cycle, one-year-olds exploring and observing a worm bin, and two-year-olds discovering the interconnectedness of living and nonliving things in their raised bed vegetable garden.  Other two-year-olds are collaborating with first graders to create a school composting system and three-year-olds are researching a mangrove near the school.  Other young students are exploring rivers and going on a kayak adventure on the Oleta River (each with an adult paddler!), and others are “diving into” the ecosystem of a nearby pond.  Kindergarteners are exploring the ecosystem of nearby Hobie Beach and first graders are researching the Pine Rocklands (this week, because of their keen observations on one of their field trips, they received an unprecedented invitation from the reserve officials to witness the annual “burn”).  Second graders are discovering the producers, consumers and decomposer of Biscayne Bay, third/fourth graders are discovering (and literally experiencing) a connection between the Gumbo Limbo trees and mosquitoes, and the fifth/sixth graders are uncovering the role of water and plants in different sections of the Everglades.

This is multi-disciplinary, integrated, inquiry-based, long term research project work at its best.  Hats off to Barbie and her inspired and inspiring faculty and parents!

P.S.  I’ll bet if you want to know more about the evolution of their work at La Scuola, Barbie would be happy to talk with you.  One caveat, represented by my new nickname for Barbie, “3B”…for Busy Busy Barbie.