We are proud to share a new video called Out of Eden Learn Glimpses from the Classroom: Kiriaki Melliou, with videography and production by Sarah Sheya. To accompany the launch of this video, Kiriaki has written a blog post to explain how Out of Eden Learn fits in with her educational philosophy and classroom practice: see below.
THE OPPORTUNITY TO “WALK” IN OUT OF EDEN LEARN
by Kiriaki Melliou
Kiriaki Melliou is kindergarten specialist at the Directorate of Primary Education in Piraeus and PhD Candidate in the Department of Early Childhood Education of the University of Western Macedonia, Greece.
One of the questions I often ask myself as an educator is: “How can I provide my students with meaningful learning opportunities that recognize and honor their experiences?” This is a difficult challenge, especially for children of low-income communities who usually face significant disparities in terms of access to quality educational opportunities, either because they don’t have a positive vision of themselves or because they face stressors in communicating their life experiences to their peers.
But how can students learn when they don’t have engaging opportunities to learn? Ritchhart (2015:144) notes that the opportunities teachers create are the prime vehicles for propelling learning in classrooms. Reflecting on my students’ learning journey in Out of Eden Learn, I’d like to focus on the opportunities that this distinctive online learning community has offered my students and how I’ve embedded these opportunities within my teaching.
▪ Opportunities to develop new knowledge and skills through meaningful inquiry. Through the six footsteps of Learning Journey 1, students developed new knowledge and skills while engaging in meaningful inquires. Creating a neighborhood map for example, provided a purposeful context for practicing concepts across the curriculum like identifying different kinds of maps, drawing, labeling landmarks, recognizing the many symbols and codes that can be used to describe a place, and developing narratives to express children’s relationship and feelings about their neighborhood.
▪ Opportunities to sensitize students to the patterns that connect them to the rest of the world. Watching Paul’s videos in Footstep 5 and reading the posts of other schools created a powerful opportunity for children to build an understanding about the various cultural meanings of food and make personal connections to their own families and their history. Food was linked to a) identity (kids in Brazil drink sugarcane juice and we drink orange juice), b) community (in Arab mosques and Greek churches large public shared meals are being offered), c) connection (both Brazilian and Greek national dishes are made of beans), and d) celebration (Brazilians have lots of different kinds of food during “Festa Junina” and Greeks make different kinds of food during Christmas). Discussing the simple concept of food allowed students to feel comfortable about putting their personal experiences on display and to understand that their views were being valued. Furthermore, this respectful and authentic interaction with other students in our walking party encouraged students to develop a sense of belonging and to celebrate their own experiences.
▪ Opportunities to offer students visibility. For me, documentation is an integral part of maintaining and interpreting our Out of Eden Learn experiences. Documentation invites students to present their stories and others to slow down and listen to them. Thus, even children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds become able to “see” the value and meaning of their ideas and develop a positive self-image. Rinaldi (2006) states that the child exists when others recognize that what he or she says is important. In low income schools, teachers don’t often find the opportunity to give their students voice. But in our case, Out of Eden Learn has offered young students a unique opportunity to gain recognition and visibility. I couldn’t be more appreciative.
Rinaldi, C. (2006). In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, Researching, and Learning. New York: Routledge.
Ritchhart, R. (2015). Creating Cultures of Thinking. The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Tranform our Schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.