Latest News from the Collaborative

By: Jim Reese

Read from our latest newsletter about everything PDC has  been up to!

About twice a month, the Professional Development Collaborative sends out a newsletter to its 1000+ subscribers to let them know about the projects we are working on; the relevant meetings or conferences at which we are presenting or that we are attending; and, of course, descriptions and reminders for all of the wonderful DC-PZ events that are coming up soon. This includes information about WISSIT–our annual summer teacher institute. In addition to being emailed to all of our subscribers, each newsletter will also be posted here, on our website. If you would like to access previous newsletters, you can click on the following link to our Mailchimp archive. While you’re there, you can also sign up for our mailing list!

May 05, 2018:

Children Are Citizens 2018 Family Day at the National Gallery of Art

For the last four years, the Professional Development Collaborative at Washington International School has partnered with colleagues at Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, local schools, and cultural institutions to bring the Children AreCitizens (CAC) initiative to DC-area teachers and classrooms. Generously funded by Fight for Children, a local foundation that supports quality early childhood education, CAC has served over 1,000 children, most of whom have been enrolled in Title I schools.

The initiative was inspired by the infant-toddler care centers and preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy, that have made a name for themselves as exemplars of progressive early childhood education. Hallmarks of the Reggio Emilia approach include student-directed learning and documentation of that learning process (familiar concepts to our DC-PZ crowd!). CAC applies these ideas locally and starts with the premise that all children–including  the youngest–are full citizens of their communities and capable of participating in civic life.

This academic year, seven schools–with over 25 classrooms spanning Pre-K 3 to 2nd grade and close to 400 students–participated in CAC. Every month, the teachers in the cohort met in after-school professional development seminars led by seasoned Reggio practitioners from School-Within-School at Goding. The teachers listened carefully to their students to learn what they found most interesting about DC; examples include the local parks, neighborhoods, monuments, museums, natural spaces, public art and playgrounds. Using various provocations, the teachers guided the students in explorations of the city.

With support and consultations from the partnering cultural institutions, Project Zero researchers, and the Collaborative, each classroom eventually adopted a specific project to pursue. The children talked, wrote, drew, played, improvised, and created three-dimensional models about their ideas. They shared their work, questions and feedback across neighborhoods and across schools, and, in the process, they became part of something bigger than themselves.

The culminating project this year, as it has been in previous years, was a book filled with pages created by the students and their teachers as a synthesis of their learning. Copies of the book were given to the students at a special Family Day at the National Gallery of Art, which took place this past Saturday, April 28. Over 600 people attended the event where proud authors showed their families what they had accomplished in the book and in displays about the project from each classroom. The event also included several fun activities for the families to enjoy together, such as a reading nook provided by the DC Public Library, drop-in workshops with Imagination Stage, a building zone supplied by the National Building Museum, and the National Gallery’s Brushter app (see photo).

We’d like to give a big thank-you to all of our amazing partners in this initiative, and, in particular, to Fight for Children:

  • Project Zero Senior Researchers Ben Mardell and Mara Krechevsky
  • National Gallery of Art’s Nathalie Ryan and Chris Rusinko, and staff who supported the Family Day
  • National Building Museum’s Andrew Costanzo and Allison Pagliaro
  • DC Public Library’s Wendy Lukehart and the librarians in each school’s neighborhood
  • Imagination Stage’s Joanne Seelig and Stacy Steyeart
  • National Air and Space Museum’s Diane Kidd
  • School-Within-School at Goding’s Jere Lorenzen-Strait and Margaret Ricks

And, of course, a huge thank-you to all the schools’ teachers, administrators, students, and families who made this the amazing project that it is:

  • DC Bilingual Public Charter School
  • Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School
  • J.O. Wilson Elementary School (DCPS)
  • Sacred Heart Bilingual Catholic School
  • Seaton Elementary School (DCPS)
  • Sunshine Early Learning Center
  • Van Ness Elementary School (DCPS)

If you’d like to learn more about Children Are Citizens, you can visit the Collaborative’swebpage or register for WISSIT, where we’ll have interactive courses and a keynote address featuring the project. Soon we’ll be announcing details for a Children Are Citizens conference, to be held at Washington International School on Friday-Saturday, October 5-6, 2018.

Annual DC-PZ Exhibition of Teacher and Student Learning

Each spring for the last five years, the DC-Project Zero Exhibition of Teacher and Student Learning has highlighted powerful examples of professional inquiry across the region.

This year, the Exhibition will take place on Thursday, May 10, at Sidwell Friends School’s Wisconsin Avenue NW campus from 5:30-7:00 p.m. (see below in “Upcoming Events” for more details). Everyone is welcome to this culminating event of our free DC-Project Zero professional development series. Please RSVP through this link, so we can be sure to have enough food and drink for everyone attending.

At this year’s Exhibition, you can expect to see a variety of documentation from PreK3 classrooms all the way through graduate school. Of special note are exhibits that feature “maker-centered learning” approaches across the curriculum.

Exhibition organizers Anne Charny and Denise Coffin of Sidwell Friends have been working diligently to put together an outstanding program for us.

Denise shared the following reflection about the benefits of exhibiting and attending:

I feel that the exhibition is a rewarding experience for a variety of reasons. For those educators who put together a display for the exhibition, the process of doing so is the biggest benefit.

The act of reflecting on the documentation, photographs, student writing or illustrations, and other artifacts of a project is powerful. We take the time to write our reflections on where we intended the project take us, where there were surprises, and where we found evidence of learning. This process is one every educator should be given the time to do on a regular basis.

The second benefit is for those who attend the exhibition. There has not been a year since we started this initiative that I have not found a spark or an idea that inspired my own practice. As far as sharing our best ideas, this is an awe-inspiring evening.

The third benefit is for those who exhibit. Viewers give written comments using the straightforward feedback protocol LAST (Looking At Student Thinking), which provides everything from reassurance to “places” to go. I have gotten some of the best “feed forward” on my teaching from that simple sheet of paper!

There is something more about this exhibition: For one evening in May, educators from all types of educational settings, from a variety of age groups, and from a diverse city of learners, come together and form this amazing community. We bring our puzzles and the things of which we are most proud. We quietly and respectfully interact with one another’s teaching. We build each other up and inspire each other into growth. It’s really pretty cool! Imagine what might happen if every educator were lucky enough to share this experience?


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To see all of our upcoming events, click here!