This evening I finally visited Bambini Creativi, the Reggio school in south Kansas City that I have heard so much about for the past year. I joined my Learning Environments classmates there as part of our discussion on how the learning environment influences learning. We started the evening sitting in child-sized chairs at child-sized tables in the dining room to listen to Breanne (the owner/founder) share a bit of her story and philosophy. Then we followed her and Annie (a former co-worker of mine who now teaches at Bambini) through the school as they described what they do and why they do it. I can’t even put into words what this school is like because it is so different than anything I have experienced.
At the end of the tour, we were invited to choose an area in the school that we liked and reflect on a list of questions about that space, about what it said to the children and their parents and how that space might influence our teacher. I sat myself down next to the projector, where the children can draw their own transparencies and then use them to tell stories. I looked around at the two block structures – spaceships, we were told – which have grown and evolved in that corner since before Christmas. I looked at the books, the blocks, the umbrella, the solar system, the wire sculpture, the disco ball, at the carefully documented evidence of what the children were doing and saying and learning. And I listened.
What does this space say to children?
That what they have to say, their ideas, their stories, are important. Their work is important enough, serious enough, to let it gradually creep its way across this classroom space, day after day, as they add to it and refine it. That their process matters, the journey of doing, but that their product is significant and beautiful, too.
That their teachers trust them. They give them responsibility, handing their learning back to them, because these teachers believe that these children are capable. They show that they trust the children, so that the children can learn to trust themselves.
It reminded me of a blog that touched me last year from Teacher Tom. This post was named “Be Not Afraid” and in it he described his most memorable Easters as a child, the ones he spent in Greece full of exploding eggs, boiling vinegar, and late-night bonfires. Then he shared about a two year old her dipped her hand in glue and then proceeded to walk all around the room, very careful to keep from touching anything with the glue as he shooed away the other teachers who wanted to clean off the glue for her. Teacher Tom ends the post by writing:
“I would trust Maya to carry an Easter candle; look how responsible she is. I would trust Violet to boil-dye a batch of blood red eggs. Children are as competent as we allow them to be. They step up to the responsibilities in their lives, but only when we leave them enough freedom to assume them on their own. I hear a lot of people this time of year saying things about the “real meaning of Easter.” The part of that real message that I always took home with me as I carried my candle through those dark streets was the part that said: “Be not afraid.”
It’s a good message because it’s only when we can move beyond fear that we can trust. And trust is what our children need from us.” (Teacher Tom, April 04, 2012).
How can my classroom, with my precious group of one year olds, reflect this message of “I trust you”?