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Dear Friends, This newsletter provides a glimpse into some current work of our school. I hope it will offer a taste of the ways in which our school’s core beliefs guide the teaching and learning that is taking place — all day, every day. Those core beliefs include our commitment to: Viewing children as powerful thinkers, researchers, and innovators; Sustaining children’s innate joy, wonder, curiosity, and motivation to inquire and learn; Supporting students’ ability to work, think, and construct knowledge together; Giving students and teachers the latitude and flexibility to design many of their own goals for teaching and learning; and Demonstrating the sometimes surprisingly great extent to which children can engage, inquire, collaborate, risk, reflect, persist, stretch, learn, and understand. Witnessing the last is our daily joy and inspiration. We hope this reading will bring some joy and inspiration for you!

Checking In A Quarterly Communication

Winter 2014



The Pedagogy of Sabot’s Preschool by IRENE CARNEY

Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of our preschool’s implementation of the Reggio Emilia Approach (REA). When we first learned about the amazing work taking place in that small Italian city, we recognized the beliefs of the Reggio educators to be consistent with the views of children and learning on which our preschool had been founded. Now, almost two decades later, we continue to use the Reggio schools — and several other like-minded programs around the country and around the world — as a framework and inspiration. What is it about the children, teachers, and centers in Reggio Emilia that we find so compelling? In a publication of the Southern Early Childhood Association, author P.L. Matalock, provides a fully developed yet concise comparison between approaches to early childhood education, the REA among them. Matalock concludes:

school and in the learning process. The program’s agenda underscored the belief that the studio — the workspace; the media and materials; the facilitation of the studio teacher; and, particularly, the practice of observing, thinking, representing, and reflecting — is the heart of a Reggioinspired school. Each time one of our teachers takes a trip to Reggio Emilia (there have been five such trips over the last 16 years), we all benefit from an updated understanding of how this work is developing, not only in Italy, but also worldwide. The cohort with whom Anna studied this year included educators from 25 nations, including Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Qatar, The Netherlands, England, Germany, China, Japan, Canada, Colombia, and Mexico.

Anna reminds us that the Reggio educators were among the first and most effective proponents of an image of children as curious and capable beings. That image has “The Project Approach maintains a focus stimulated change over decades and around on inquiry and investigation rooted in the world. “A visit to Reggio is a chance to concrete and tangible subjects. see how the schools have evolved, including The Reggio Emilia philosophy goes a step new media and materials they have introfurther and includes abstract ideas and the duced to the children,” says Anna. “I was process of co-constructing theories as an able to see documentation of projects done important aspect of teaching and learning.” in many new media, including digital video and projections and graphic design on one It is that “step further” that we find so hand, and natural materials in various powerful in our work in the preschool and stages of decay on the other. Another throughout the school. While our projects are often “concrete and tangible” explorations, highlight was the ways they are working with community experts in architecture, the teachers always seek and seize on opportunities to delve into more ephemeral, dance, psychology, and publishing. Now that they have moved into elementary abstract ideas and to engage children with education, conferences are attracting one another in constructing their undereducators on a similar journey to ours. It’s standing of the ways of the world. heartening to find out about the triumphs and challenges in similar schools all over In November, Anna Golden was our the world.” emissary to an institute in Reggio Emilia focused on the role of the studio in the

Over the years, our preschool children have explored numerous complex phenomena and big ideas: flight “How do birds teach their babies to fly?” earth and space “Where does the moon go during the day?” the digital world “How will our email travel from Sabot to Estonia?” good and evil “Can I be a good guy and still be safe from bad stuff?”

This year’s preschoolers have been considering the theme of our

Umbrella Project —

time — and allowing us

to glimpse into their

notions of time such as,

“Time is waiting, like

swim lessons” and “The

air makes the earth spin.

I think when the earth spins, time is running



Science in the Lower School by SUSAN BARSTOW and ANDREA PIEROT TI

Third grade teacher Andrea Pierotti is preparing an article about teaching science at Sabot for publication in Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Exchange. In the article, Andrea celebrates what she calls “the science of the ordinary.” Andrea points out that the world just outside our classrooms is a perfect laboratory for children because it provides consistent, immediate, and accurate feedback. The story Andrea tells is about an investigation during which she and the students learned to be better thinkers. It is a story that includes mistakes, missteps, and moments when she and the children couldn’t see exactly where the project was going. But it is ultimately a triumphant story about the learning that can take place when a teacher is open to a little chaos and disequilibrium, giving the students the opportunity to be active participants in their own learning. Andrea’s article traces the development of a project from start to finish, focusing on how a teacher balances curricular goals and her own experience with the interests, passions, and needs of a particular group of children. Andrea and the children knew the question in the science curriculum was, “How does the earth change?” and together they set out to decide how they would investigate this big question. Some students were drawn to dramatic events that cause tremendous changes in the earth, events like volcanoes and earthquakes, but Andrea was able to show the children the advantages of working with things they could see, hear, touch, and feel. Then she sat back, waited, and listened. One student noted excitedly, on one of the group’s forays into Larus Park, “If we study how the creek is changing, we will be studying how the earth is changing.” Another student later raised a question about the movement of shadows over the creek that launched their affiliated investigation into shadows. Andrea argues that it is critical to include the children in decision-making, noting that the students’ ideas of studying the changes in the creek and in shadows were better than any ideas she’d had: “The children need my life experience and I need their fresh ideas. Together we construct a better, more engaging path to travel.” Andrea identifies the essential ingredients necessary to a successful investigation: time, mistakes, representation and revision, closure, and sharing. Time, she explains, is the most important ingredient. When children are not

rushed, they can delve deeply and understand fully. The children need time to test their ideas, reflect, and revise their understandings. They also need room to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes; and they need to learn to see mistakes not as errors but as moments of opportunity. Representing their ideas (in clay, writing, acting, drawing, etc.) allows children not just to share what they know, but also to see for themselves what they know — or think they know. Receiving feedback on these representations (which Andrea’s students often provide for one another) allows students to revise their understandings and form new, more accurate theories and understandings. Finally, finding an authentic reason and medium for sharing their learning allows students to be participants in a wider learning community. After completing their investigations of shadows and the creek, Andrea’s students ended up sharing their learning through the creation of a guidebook entitled How To Be A Scientist. They took photographs, wrote advice for their readers, and provided examples from their own scientific research. These were their section headings, the gleanings that they took from their months of investigation: • use our senses to observe, • observe over a period of time, • make connections, • scientists do things more than once, • try, try again, • measure, • be willing to change your mind based on what you observe, • learn from your mistakes, • make a guess or develop a hypothesis, • use models to learn about other things, • think outside the box, • be consistent, • record your results, • don’t rush, and • don’t jump to conclusions. It is a thorough list of principles and practices for scientific research, a list not dissimilar to one Andrea could have given them at the beginning of the year. But it was one they developed themselves, through a series of hands-on, minds-on experiences; it was a list they understood from the inside out.

Exploratory in the Middle School by DAN DAGLISH




To a middle school student, can there be anything better than a good adventure? To have an opportunity to delve into the depths of something that inspires you? We think not, and that is why we offer Exploratory: a weekly opportunity to spend two hours engrossed in investigation into…well, anything! Exploratory, a class essentially unique to Sabot, allows students to develop a deeper understanding of just about anything, while also honing important life skills, such as: project and time management, research, self-reflection, and presentation. Each year, every Sabot middle school student conducts three 12-week exploratory projects that culminate in our Exploratory “presentation day” when students present, to each other and faculty, information about their investigation and what they have learned. At the end of the year, students choose their favorite Exploratory project to display and discuss with the whole Sabot community. Exploratory projects in the past have focused on a plethora of subjects: building and renovation, historical research, scientific investigation, and community service. In many instances the school as a whole has benefitted: the middle school bird garden, the “Bridge to Terabithia” in the Garden, the redesign of the interior of the pool house. Other projects have delighted us with singing, dancing, music, and food! We will not soon forget the French chocolate mousse or Japanese sushi and various other treats, some good and some quite horrendous, that have been served up during Exploratory investigations. On presentation day, it is not the factual content of the presentations that often brings tears to the eyes of the faculty. It is the sense of accomplishment, and relief, in the shy 6th grader who presents in front of a large audience for the first time and learns that it is not actually a lethal experience! It is the 7th grader, whose project has bombed but whose learning has soared. And, it is the 8th grader who, in his final Exploratory presentation at Sabot, brings down the house with his sense of humor, command of his subject, and accomplished presence. When asked, our graduates continually tell us that one thing we should never axe is Exploratory — rest assured, we would not dare. Long live the Sabot Explorers!

What variation of ingredients makes the best chocolate mousse?

What is the most effective way to learn the guitar together in one trimester?

How, through making sushi, can I build enough self-confidence to try cooking again?

How can I create a board game that is both fun and helps people learn and memorize the countries and their capitals?

Did You Know? Our physical plant is constantly changing and adapting to our current and projected needs. The projects below are some of those made possible through the generous support of our community. CAMPUS-WIDE NETWORK UPGRADE Connectivity will improve the richness of our program and efficiency of our faculty and staff. OUTDOOR LIGHTING INSTALLATION A safety improvement made in balance with our concern for reducing light pollution: the paths to the poolhouse and cottages at the back of our campus are now lit with Dark Sky Compliant lamps. GATEWAY MASTER PLAN A comprehensive plan encompassing everything from the Main Gate to the Main House is in the works. Projects include signage, landscaping, and improved parking. BOILER REPLACEMENT Just in time! We are very grateful we were able to do this given the cold winter weather in 2014. RECYCLING Teachers no longer have to take their recyclables home in order to be green. Each classroom is equipped with recycling trashcans and we have contracted with CVWMA for bi-monthly pick up.

Support Sabot at Stony Point

Save These Dates! MARCH 28

Grandparents & Special Friends Day APRIL 17

Spring Concert in the Garden – Look out for more details this spring! MAY 3

Time to Flourish. Join us for our annual auction! MAY 22

All the work you have read about in this newsletter is made possible by the generous support of our extended community. Here are ways you can continue to make a difference for the School.

Spring Concert in the Garden – River City Taiko

• • • • • • •


Volunteer Support Gifts to our Annual Fund Gifts of Stocks or Securities Program-Specific Grants In-Kind Donations Planned Giving or Bequests Endowed Gifts

For more information about how you can make a lasting impact for Sabot at Stony Point, please email Erin O’Regan, Director of Development and Alumni Relations, at or call 804.272.1341.


Winter 2014 Newsletter  
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