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Susan MacKay
Director of Education and the Center for Children's Learning at the Portland Children's Museum
Recent Activity
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We're so close to sharing our new website with you. In the meantime, we'll continue to crosspost here. As a big fan of the work of both Alison Gopnik and Peter Gray, a post written recently by the latter about a new book, The Gardener and the Carpenter, by the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2016 at Opal School Blog
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Opal School exists not only to influence its immediate community: It lives to provoke change far and wide. We know that our workshops catalyze change - but only rarely do we get a window into the ripples. Below, you'll read how Erin Baker brought some of the juice from the... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2016 at Opal School Blog
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I start this post with a shout out to Allie Pasquier, whose recent Bakers and Astronauts post catalyzed this one. Her post examined how the ephemera of our classrooms - the surface layers - the branches - are not important in and of themselves, but only insofar as they are... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2016 at Opal School Blog
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This post by Susan Harris MacKay first appeared on the Living in Dialogue blog. In these times, when the demolition of a place as historic as Sesame Street can be thwarted by editing for shorter attention spans and conversion to pay-per-view, it can be difficult to remember what all the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2016 at Opal School Blog
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The opinion piece is a famously third grade writing assignment. It is, in fact, Common Core English Language Arts Standard 3.1: “Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons”. It seems fair that children should learn to distinguish between fact and opinion and be... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2016 at Opal School Blog
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Opal School third graders have been exploring charcoal as a language -- a tool for thinking and expression. We began by asking: What can this material do? What colors are you finding that live inside black? As with any new material, any encounter with the unfamiliar, the children made assumptions.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2016 at Opal School Blog
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Visitors to Opal School are oftentimes struck by the quantity and quality of the questions they encounter here. At Opal School, we aim to live in inquiry. As the panel above reveals, questions allow us to remain alongside children in genuine curiosity and wonder. We immerse our questions whose answers... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2016 at Opal School Blog
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As we aim to create a school founded in a strong image of the child, we need to constantly consider our image of childhood and its relationship to adulthood. What might it mean to create curriculum based around the unique gifts of childhood? How can we embrace children’s capacity to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2016 at Opal School Blog
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Last week, I represented Opal School at Ashoka Changemaker Schools Network Summit in Oracle, Arizona. The Changemaker Schools Network is a global community of elementary, middle, and high schools whose approaches to developing empathy and agency have the potential to inspire a new educational framework. Over an intense three-and-a-half days,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2016 at Opal School Blog
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My heart is heavy looking back on a violent year. In the past year, we’ve watched so many individuals gunned down, white supremacy viscerally stamped on their crumbling bodies; the revolving door of mass shootings, reminding us on an almost daily basis of our feeble inability to enact arms restrictions;... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2015 at Opal School Blog
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When the organizers of the TEDx West Vancouver conference called to ask if someone from Opal School would like to share at their event, I shot up my hand. I knew it would be a powerful exercise in synthesis – forcing me to develop clarity around what I care most... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2015 at Opal School Blog
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At the end of September, Matt Karlsen and I spoke to several groups in the Vancouver area about conditions that support playful inquiry. Over the last few years, educators in British Columbia and Alberta have shown a great deal of interest in Opal School’s work: it responds to their curiosity... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2015 at Opal School Blog
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"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Martin Luther King, Jr. In observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, we've had a long weekend. Much of Dr. King's encouragement and inspiration ultimately challenges us all to speak up with, as our friend... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2015 at Opal School Blog
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Each September I find myself wanting to pick right up where we left off in June. The end of the school year is one of my favorite times. It is a time of synthesis and reflection. It's a time of celebration of growth and learning. It's a time where all... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2014 at Opal School Blog
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I don't think I've been so excited to begin a school year in a long time. Opal School's continuous journey to develop an understanding of and approach to a pedagogy of listening and relationships has taken a significant step forward. Tomorrow, when we open our doors on the 2014 -... Continue reading
Posted Sep 1, 2014 at Opal School Blog
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Dear Person Who is Looking at the Mural: The following letter was written collaboratively by the 8 and 9 year old children who attend Opal School. They have designed and painted a mural as a gift to those who will play on the school playground for years to come. This... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2014 at Opal School Blog
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Working with a partner is sometimes easier because you have lots of ideas, but it’s sometimes harder because you have to agree. Angelina, age 8 Angelina spoke these words recently as she and her classmates at Opal School were getting ready to launch their final writing project of the school... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2014 at Opal School Blog
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This post comes from Opal School Teacher-Researcher Kerry Salazar. It discusses the work of Opal 2 (grades 1-2.) Learn more about this project - and see the panels themselves - at the Opal School Summer Symposium. Children in Opal 2 spend a year immersed in a study of "The We... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2014 at Opal School Blog
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Opal School teachers and children share their work with the world through professional development workshops. The effort involved in this is significant - but it's our way of fulfilling our mission of strengthening public education well beyond the walls of Portland Children's Museum. Last week, we held a program called... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2014 at Opal School Blog
We are so pleased to present our very first ebook! The first to come in our Symposium Series, this ebook documents a project facilitated by Opal Beginning School teachers Lauren Adams and Caroline Wolfe with children ages 3 - 5 years, which they presented at the Opal School Symposium in... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2014 at Opal School Blog
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The Magical Tree of Birdland At this morning's whole school gathering, Opal 1 told us about what they've been studying. Taylor explained that they were studying birds and then they saw a giant nest in the woods and they wanted to figure out how big it was and then they... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2014 at Opal School Blog
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Last month, a group of teachers and administrators from the Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education at South Dakota State University spent two days engaged in observation, investigation, and conversation at Opal School. In this post, Dr. Kay Cutler, Professor of Early Childhood Education and Director of the Center, discusses... Continue reading
Posted Feb 21, 2014 at Opal School Blog
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When the rains come to the Northwest, I love to spend weekends searching for chanterelles. During all season, I find transcendent pleasure in wandering through an old growth forest - but in the fall, when it's covered with leafy debris, that joy is enhanced by the delight of stumbling over... Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2014 at Opal School Blog