Sunday, July 26, 2015

Freedom to Explore

This past week I enjoyed a trip to the Exploratorium in San Francisco with my two boys. With our summer filled with sports, friends, swimming and more video games than usual, I was looking forward to a day disconnected from devices and letting them explore and have fun.

I was amazed by all of the exhibits and hands on activities for the kids to explore. Their favorites included pedaling to create energy to power light bulbs and other objects, seeing how black sand from boulders reacted to magnets, and the Tinkering Studio.

As a mom and educator, the tinkering studio was by far my favorite; more specifically, it was the one section that allowed kids of all ages to design and build a unique creation.  Walking into the area, there was a sign posted for kids to read and then the walls were lined with peg boards.  Containers were filled with wooden pegs, funnels, tubing, ramps, and other materials.  Kids were given the chance to be creative, problem solve, build, reflect and refine.

While watching my two boys create a design, try out the marble, and then make adjustments, an idea came to me: Could I have something like this in my school?  Maybe it's a place where all classes can sign up for times, or maybe it's something that's opened up at recess for kids to explore.  What if it was a mobile station that could be moved around to different classrooms?  I don't have all the answers yet, but I am excited about the possibility.   I continued watching not only my kids, but kids as young as 1 1/2 years old build and
My boys creating their pathway for the marble. 
have fun for hours on end! I watched as kids used: critical thinking, teamwork, and problem solving.  The whole time they were excited and having fun!

As a mom, I'm always thinking about how I can get my two boys to get along and work together.  On this day, I didn't have to do a thing!  They worked together and supported each other while trying to accomplish their goal of getting the marble to travel down the path they created.

As educators we're always thinking what can we have them read? What technology can we incorporate? What do I need to teach them? How do I teach kids to work together?  Maybe we're asking the wrong questions.  Maybe it's not about what we can teach them, but instead it's what experience can we provide so they can learn?  

Life is not about giving kids the answers and explicitly teaching all there is to learn. They need a chance to play and figure things out.  A chance to problem solve and experience failure, but then get right back at it with another idea.  So as you enter this school year, I challenge you to think about what you can do to provide experiences for the kids to explore and have fun while learning at the same time!

Sunday, July 19, 2015


For weeks now I have been saying I want to start a blog.  I was hesitant because I've never written one before and was worried to put myself out there.  Well, here it is, my first blog post - finally getting it done!

Last month I finished up my first year as an elementary school principal and was looking for something to inspire me.  As a classroom teacher I loved attending conferences to learn new things to apply to my classroom and school site.  I loved that feeling of excitement and inspiration I would walk away with after attending. Where could I find that as an administrator?  I wondered if it was even out there.

A friend of mine mentioned NAESP and recommended we should attend.  After checking it out online, I figure what it was worth a shot.  As I headed down to Long Beach I started to think to myself, what do I want to walk away with from the week?  What am I hoping to get from this conference? I wanted to learn.  I wanted to be inspired. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and connect with other administrators.

The opening keynote by graffiti artist Erik Wahl blew me away.  It was truly an inspiration to hear his story and watch him in action.  The emotion evoked was something I will always remember.

When Erik asked the question, "Who can draw?" only a small amount of hands were raised.  He asked us to think what would happen if a group of preschoolers were asked the same thing. Of course, all hands would be up.  Why is that?  What have we done in society to change kids' beliefs about themselves and their capabilities? School has been dominated by the push of math and reading, but there is so much more. Art inspires creativity, thinking outside the box and taking a risk. Art lets children use their imagination.  Every child sees themselves as an artist, our challenge, my challenge, is to help students keep their creativity going from when they enter my school until they leave.

Sometime it pays to take a risk.  As Erik said, "We are almost naturally resistant to stepping out and taking a risk because we were taught to be logical.  We were taught to take all of the ideas and narrow them down to one." Nothing is learned in life without pushing yourself and taking a risk. What's the worst that can happen? You fail? Failure is an opportunity to grow.  Without failure, we're not taking risks and we're not growing. According to Erik, taking a risk is overcoming FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real). Personally for me, reaching out and connecting with others in Long Beach was taking a risk.  It was outside my comfort zone.  Sitting down and writing something to post for everyone to see is taking a risk.  How can I continue to take risks? How can I get teachers and students to take risks?

As the summer comes to a close and the new school year is quickly approaching, I am excited for what is yet to come.  I am excited to work with my staff to ensure we encourage creativity and risk taking with our for ourselves and our students.