Materials had been purchased for two of our sites and disbursed to the classrooms with no real intentionality or explanation. Teachers asked "Well what is that platform for? Can I put it in the hallway to get it out of the way?" This type of question lead the project to its core, looking at the materials and equipment in the classrooms and how to intentionally introduce them to not only the children, but also to the teachers.
To keep the project manageable, it was brought back to just one site with 6 classrooms. Teachers participated in a workshop about clay; they were introduced to its properties and given tips on how to use the material with young children. Teaching teams were then asked to share documentation from the experiences they offered children and those pictures were shared via website for teachers to see and reflect on. Other items like articles and reflection questions were also shared via this website. After the first clay workshop, teachers did offer clay in the classrooms but it didn't last long; so we invited Allen (another Relay participant who has proven to be invaluable and one of my best resources yet) to lead a workshop on clay with an emphasis on mathematics. Teachers shared their "ah ha!" moments long after Allen's departure. It is the agency's intention to continue to work with Allen to support the needs and development of the teaching staff.
For me, the Relay Project has been a life-changing experience. I've gained so much by sharing experiences and reflections with a group of my peers that I might not otherwise have been able to meet with; knowing that time was set aside each month to meet helped maintain the focus. I have seen things and met people I otherwise might not have had the opportunity to; a personal favorite was meeting and chatting with Lella Gandini. I have learned to do nothing without joy. The joy I find in my work keeps me motivated and energized, even when things get difficult and frustrating. My only wish is that I had been involved from the beginning. I've seen myself grow (and continue to grow) into a reflective role at the agency and at the advice of a friend have "embraced the baby steps" and "do everything with love." I feel better equipped to guide my teaching teams into reflective practice and intentional teaching as a result of participating in the project. I see the changes and growth when I enter a classroom and see a documentation panel hanging on the wall, when previously there may have been commercially-made art. I intend to follow through with these changes long after our closing meeting this June; the benefits have proven to far outweigh any obstacle. We are moving forward in our growth, no matter what. The project has helped me to see that there will always be obstacles, but we just need to find the way around them.
Our project within the Relay Project has changed and shifted several times and changed hands over time, however the overall goal has always been the same: provoke and inspire our teachers to share meaningful, intentional, and high-quality interactions and experiences with the young children in their classrooms.
Moving forward, no matter what.