Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The People of the City

       The People of our City         

We would like to get to know the people of our city better. 
Shayna: What is it like to live in the city?
Caroline: What is like to work in the city?
Zack: What do you see in the city? What is it like to make money in the city?
Scarlett: What is your favorite thing to do in the city?
Annabel: What colors do you see in the city?
Eve; What shapes are in the city?

We have been looking for answers to our questions as we visit the city, take a tour at the VMFA of works of art highlighting the city and its people and finally as we play at our block table with the city as a backdrop.
As we study our city of Richmond,  I often think of the Italian word partecipazione. The Italians define this word as an interpretation of multiple views on the same reality. The children have such empathy and solidarity within their classroom community and the natural community on our campus. How can we broker engagement and develop a conversation with the people of the city?  How can we create encounters between the children and the people of the city that are concrete, connected to context and dependent on relationship?  

Partecipazion requires curiosity and listening to others with an openness to the unknown.We practise listening each and every day but our birthday circle provides a specific type of practise. The children ask questions regarding the early years of their peer's lives  and refrain from commentary. In a way this ritual is similar to an interview. The value of listening must be practiced to both appreciate its impact and understand the nuances. 

We asked our families to support an intention to bring the  people of the city into the classroom. Kate's dad, Scott Wayne was the first person to join the Kindergarten and be interviewed. He arrived one day last week and spent thirty minutes explaining his work and the things that he loves most about living in the city. 

Scott shared with us that he choose to renovate  an old building in the city for his new offices rather than build a new one. The garage door was removed and large windows were put in its place because buildings are often dark in the city.

As we listened, we took notes on a clipboard.  Samuel noted, "made garage into windows".  He also used the recycling sign to denote Scott's commitment to the environment. His company uses the symbol of a star for a logo. As I reviewed the notes that each student took during the interview, I was impressed with the fluidity in which they moved from words to graphics and back to words again. Their minds are able to quickly attach a picture or even a word to an idea.

The story of Scott riding his bike to work resonated with the children. Many are beginning to ride their own bikes and they were impressed with the  freedom to ride across bridges, through Carytown and past the VMFA. Scott said that many people in Richmond were attending a meeting at his work building this week to discuss the need for bike lanes promoting safe travel throughout the city.

I was unprepared for the insight the interview notes would offer regarding the inner workings of each child's mind. Notice the list forming followed by a square with a check-mark. Scott's age and the necessary items for his day are all checked. Clear, concise and organized. 

Scott drew the similarity between his work and the work of the children noting that his colleagues have pens and paper for drawings and they draw all day long. "Sometimes if there is a great idea we actually build the idea." 

Julia," It is like we are grownups because we do the same thing."

What ??!! If you work at Scott's company you may bring your dog to work with you! This was a home-run with this group of children. The fastest way to the heart of a Kindergartner is to mention pets or animals. This was a discussion that continues to delight the children. Scarlett's notes documented her plans for dog visits. 

Julia recalled the collaboration that occurred at tables throughout Scott's business. Her artistic perspective of the tables and chairs is fascinating. It is a bird's eye view of the office. The people do seem to be lounging in their seats and sharing their thinking in a relaxed and organized way.

Scott and his employees work long hours so to regenerate creativity and center their thinking they meditate in a quiet spot free of distractions.  Taking dogs to school might not be a reality in the future but we will consider creating a quiet place to retreat and meditate in our environment.

The grand finale was when Scott called his colleague on the robot and his  face appeared. The kids were mesmerized and totally captivated by the technology.

We enjoyed Scott's stories and his enthusiasm for the city was contagious. He described the city like a bee hive always buzzing with energy.

We have been reading poetry related to the city and his conversation with the children reminded my of this particular poem.


In the morning the city
Spread its wings
Making a song
In stone that sings.

In the evening the city
Goes to bed
Hanging lights
About its head.

Langston Hughes


  1. Thank you for sharing the class experience and the documentation. I really enjoyed reading this post about your city and community.

  2. awesome. Was this Dad from the Martin Agency?

  3. not the Martin Angency, but a different creative firm here in RVA