A Day of Professional Development
The Nest Nursery School is a proud member of a local, grassroots educational initiative called Project Infinity that supports several schools which are interested in the experiences of Reggio Emilia, Italy. Project Infinity is an initiative of the non-profit organization Inspired Practices in Early Education.
On August 22nd, the teachers at The Nest engaged in the annual Project Infinity Professional Development Day — an opportunity for the exchange of ideas, thoughts, and challenges alongside educators from the five other schools that participate in Project Infinity, including the Grant Park Cooperative Preschool, St. Anne’s Day School, Peachtree Presbyterian Preschool, First Baptist Church Kindergarten, and First Baptist Church Infant/Toddler Program. Obviously this is The Nest’s first year participating in this kind of professional development since we are a brand-new school; however, this is the fourth year that the educators of Project Infinity have gathered at the beginning of the school year with the goal of starting off the year inspired and supported by colleagues.
I have been involved in Project Infinity for a little over ten years and feel privileged to be a part of the project’s growth and development. We are now a group of over two hundred educators from six different schools. When I attend these kinds of sessions, I feel a part of something different–something innovative and unique in education. It gives me hope for the future of education. I see educators with whom I have built relationships and who I know have some of the same struggles, the same joys as I do. It makes me realize how much education is life and as human beings we never stop growing and learning.
For the first part of the professional development day, we split into small groups to attend “atelier” sessions. Everyone at The Nest participated in the movement atelier (except Kristi who facilitated a different atelier experience with natural materials, drawing, and clay with another small group). On my most recent study tour to Reggio Emilia, I participated in a movement atelier led by two dancers. I was excited to see an American perspective on this type of experience. During the Project Infinity professional development day, the movement atelier was facilitated by two yoga instructors. We started off doing breathing exercises and learned the importance of slowing down your breathing and breathing through your stomach rather than your chest. I found it interesting to consider that this is how infants come into the world breathing; yet with the busyness and stress of life, we lose our awareness of our breathing over the course of time. Another aspect of the movement atelier involved partnering with others in the group to do exercises that involved touch and trust. During these exercises the instructors began with a lot of dialogue that slowly tapered off until we were completing the exercises to only the sound of our breathing. It’s probably no surprise that different people preferred different ways of experiencing the poses — high instruction, minimal instruction, and silence — which was a strong reminder that everyone learns differently which underscored for me as an educator the importance of building awareness of each child’s different learning styles.
So what did this workshop make me wonder about in regards to being an educator of young children? In an infant’s development, their physical changes and movement are a huge part of becoming a “fully functioning” person–how do we lose sight of the importance of being in touch with our bodies and getting out and moving our bodies? How can we as educators slow down and listen to children and how can we support children in slowing down and paying close attention to the details of the world around them in order to appreciate and breathe in the beauty of life? How does this support children’s natural curiosities? How can we support children in working together to problem solve?
The second half of the day, we looked at presentations from other schools within the project. It is always helpful to see how other educators are tracking children’s learning and giving visibility to children’s learning processes. We also got a first look at Inspired Practice’s new website which Kristi has been involved in developing over the past three years. The website provides further information about Project Infinity and gives space for continued exchanges among Project Infinity educators. The website also contains a directory of all the participants of the project so that we can exchange ideas and challenges via the website. Please check out the Inspired Practices’ website at www.inspiredpractices.org.