Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Neighborhoods of the City

 Caroline's first photograph taken
during the field trip.
Her snack bag perched in the
front seat ready for the field trip.

One of the things that we  have been trying to wrap our head around is the intersubjectivity of the Kindergarten when we reference Richmond. What does Richmond mean for each child in our learning community? What do they see in their mind when we ask questions regarding Richmond?

As we reviewed the project circle transcripts and the student representations of the city we began to realize that each child had their personal reference points and anchors to which they viewed the rest of the city. Elina viewed the city from Rocketts Landing (her home), Reed initially viewed the city from an apartment house near the river, Miles talked often about the yogurt shops in Carytown and Carter considered Richmond Ballet (sister takes ballet) his anchor.

Anna posted a blog last week that has helped us frame some of the work that the Kindergarten has done this year. Anna's blog

But really, until people know a place very, very well, the image we have in our heads is more like a collage than a map, with some very developed areas and some other kind of hazy spots. There may be some accurate routes and connections between places, combined with distortions of distances and errors in relationships between landmarks. Additionally, some of the knowledge may be represented in our heads in a maplike way, but that is combined with all sorts of other sensory information, impressions, bits of memory and even stories.

Anna's research and thinking made sense to me. I remember when I learned to drive in my small hometown. I referenced my mental map ---doing well most of the time but then entering areas that I would refer to as my Bermuda Triangle.  They were the hazy parts of my collage.

Our field trips into the city generated stories and impressions that serve as beacons for the Kindergarten. Old and New City Hall, the Governor's Mansion and  the train station are landmarks that seemed to appeal to the majority of the students.

We also shared the stories and memories of community member's beacons thinking that others might find them interesting and attach meaning as well.

These beacons included Nathan's tower signalling that he has returned to his home in the Museum District and the Mellow Mushroom serving delectable dishes and of course the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

We decided  to venture into the neighborhoods referenced including the Museum District, Carytown and one landmark that was not in the city (the airport).

Mapping out our path in the Museum District

We asked the children to do some reconnaissance during the field trip. What evidence do you see that Richmond welcomes children and accommodates their needs? The children predicted that they would need to have access to bathrooms, a place to eat their snack and places to play. Would they find these places?

We reminded the students to look for the systems needed in an operating city.  When the children designed a kid city (an ideal utopia for children) they 
determined that for a city to be a city it needed to have power, clean water, access to food and support from community helpers.

We also gave the children access to cameras so they might photograph the things that they thought were relevant. We listened to their conversations and took pictures of the sights that sparked conversation.
Gabriel noticed a mail delivery truck.
We had not labeled mail 

as a necessary system
in the city but Gabriel did think
 they were
community helpers.
The children used these signs to cross the street
and stay safe.

We often discussed the sidewalks and who built them. What a stroke of luck that Joe and Binford happened to be fixing the sidewalks during our field trip. 

There were signs galore. The Kindergarten blended 
each sound in the word and then debated the meaning.

G. found ways to have fun as a child in the city.
N. has a great tree swing right outside his house. The children were impressed that he could play and live in the city.

This was a nice sign welcoming people.
We stumbled on a large store with dryers
 and washing machines.
They were not for sale and people were 
using them to wash their clothes.
One of the children said that it was a laundromat
Nathan showed us a small grocery store in
his neighborhood where he buys candy
We realized that kids living in the city could buy food
at this store to cook and eat at home.

Sabine was one of our primary student photographers and documentors.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is an anchor for many of the Kindergartners. It might be described as the gateway to the Museum District.

We had many opportunities for play outside the museum. 

Carytown also had places to play and challenge our bodies. This type of fun is necessary for people in a city.

We found more fun on the street with World of Mirth's silly mirror.
A short session for meditating is a must. The Kindergartners found a spot to be mindful.

The children noticed many signs posted on their walk.

S. asked if she and her classmates could eat their snack at Cartwheels and Coffee. The manager said that there would be a charge of 2,000 dollars. When the children realized that they did not have that amount of money they decided to sit on this ledge to eat.

The Kindergartners noticed a community helper presenting a ticket to a driver who was going to fast. This provided proof that the city neighborhood of Carytown is a good place to visit because it is safe.

Garbage cans to keep the city clean. 
We did discover dog poop.
This is not a good thing when you are hoping to
sit with your friends and eat your snack.
This does not seem like a very friendly sign.

One of other point of inquiry was the distance that spans from downtown to the airport. Our discussion one day became a heated debate and we thought we should investigate. We also traveled from R.'s home in the city to the airport . We wondering about the distance from the city to the airport. R thought it took one minute to arrive at the airport from his house.  
 El: I live in the city and I have to get out of the city. It takes one or two minutes.

Co: I have been to the airport there a thousand times. It took me seventeen minutes to get there from my old house. 

Br: It takes count to 15 to get there from Carytown.

The children realized that the journey from the city to the airport is longer than they expected. It is definitely a landmark that is not in the city.

We continue to unpack the field trip. It is very difficult to reach intersubjectivity but we are beginning to see the children make connections. We continue to ask the children to represent their understanding of the city and  peel back the layers. Peeking out from underneath each layer are  feelings of joy----the children seem to find joy in all parts of the city.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A City for Kids

Is the city a good place for kids? How do kids fit into the life of a city? What is their place in the city? 

These are the big questions that we tackle each day in the kindergarten. We look for the answers as we talk, paint, build, use clay, sketch, play and visit the city. We work in small groups, big groups and by ourselves trying to discern our thoughts and theories. 

The thing we keep in mind though is that while we are working hard on these questions in the Kindergarten the other grades in the preschool, lower and middle school are also sitting with these questions and developing their own theories regarding Sabot's Umbrella project, "Our Richmond"..

The children's experiences with the city and their developing shared perspective of what it means to be a city informs their understanding of their place in a city. In an effort to discern these feelings and reflections we asked all of the children to create a city for kids....what would an ideal city offer children.

The children started the process of drawing the city with  sites that they saw during field trips or during family excursions into the city.

Sabine: The city should have bbgb so we could get books.
Dyson: I will draw city hall where the president lives.

But slowly after days of working, the children began to sketch places created in their imagination based on their needs and wants.  Each child in the class contributed to the large scale drawing.

Tucker started the revolution by drawing a cave to dig rocks and jewels. Evan followed  Tucker's lead drawing  a caged dinosaur with a sign stating that rides could be had for ten cents. Carter made a 
climbing wall next to an office building to facilitate exercising after a busy day. Miles started the trend of transforming the James River into a lazy river with dolphins, sea creatures, an okra whale and sharks. Nathan designed a baseball stadium and insisted that there should be many venues to view sports. Harper added a popcorn stand in case the fans became hungry.

The baseball stadium
popcorn stand

Reed stated that Richmond has bike paths and the kid city should too. Safety is always a concern for Kindergartners. Children need to travel slowly through the city on their bikes so numerous stop signs were erected as a cautionary measure.

Sadie suggested that the kids city listen to good music. She thought the birds might wake  up the city
with their beautiful music. Carter draws a pole with numerous bird houses attached.

Gabriel added a carnival to the city because kids love to go to carnivals and amusement parks. Elina wants the kid city to be a welcoming place for animals so she includes pet stores and the SPCA.

As the city takes shape there continues to be more debate regarding the decision to include adults in the kid city.

Tavish thinks that if there are not adults in a city that each kid needs to have a cell phone to communicate with everyone. Miles is confident that only three grown ups are needed in the city. The city will require  a firefighter, medical person and a police-person but he is concerned about watching millions of little kids that will live in the kid city.

We bring the large kid city mural to circle and consider all of the sketching.

We brought forward the thinking that  developed in a small group discussion identifying the things that all cities need to exist. Sabine, Caroline,  Elina, Gabriel, Luke, Millie and Miles were involved in the initial discussion and produced a list that included clean water, food, clothes for the people, helpers for bad guys and accidents and fires and finally power to run things. It was significant that this group of children could identify the needs of people living together in a city. We discussed each of these needs but the children generalized the conversation and applied it to the hypothetical project.

Millie: We need healthy food.
Miles: The grocery store makes our food. The ingredients are grown from the ground
Elina: The  mayor makes the city gardens so people would not starve.
Caroline: It is not a good city if people starve.
Miles: You put seeds in the ground so the city grows. 
Luke: Kids will need to work hard not to have a fight. There needs to be rules for the city so they have good times and not bad times. In a real city, adults are in charge because they are bigger. I guess kids can take care of other kids.

Later in the week,Tucker, Leo and Dyson had a conversation about the system to supply water to all the people and places that needed water in the city.

Leo: The pipe sucks in all of the water from the river and it goes through the building.
It needs to be cleaned.
Dyson: A washing machine might wash the water and make it clean.
Tucker: We are going to get our water from the James River and their is a Water Company. There is a machine inside and the waster is collect and it is put into the machine with buckets. 

Leo added the dark blue water company (water treatment plant) near the James River. The company has pipes that flow from its plant and connects to each house and business requiring water. 

Notice the pipes connecting water to each company and household. 

During the weeks of designing a kid city, the children discuss that a city needs to have several things to both operate and exist as a city but to accommodate and welcome children.

  • Children have basic needs that must be met. There must be ample food, water, clothing, power and safety.
  • These needs are met through urban systems that include community helpers, food distribution, water purification and a power grid that are a part of every city. 
  • A city that does not meet the basic needs of children would not be a good place for children to live.
  • Children find great strength and resiliency from pets. A city that is a good place for children would be welcoming to pets and animals. 
  • Children want to have fun and play. This includes access to nature, places to exercise, watch sporting events, yummy delectable food to eat, places to swim and dig and of course transportation to travel to all of these places.