We began our day at the Marino Marini School which is located on the edge of Pistoia – just on the urban edge which gave us great views of the true Tuscan countryside. As we rode out to the school on the city bus, we saw acres of farmland and vineyards and the sun was shining for the first time since we got here. It was a glorious morning.
This school draws its inspiration from two major sources – art and nature. Inspired and named for the sculptor, Marino Marini, the school is set in a beautiful countryside with green and space all around. The artistic influence of Marini provides a launching point for the children’s inspiration (this reminded me of how the Far Room has used Andy Goldsworthy’s work as a launching point for some of their investigations). The children here are encouraged to be inspired – but then to filter through their own heart, “not to imitate”.
With regards to the natural environment and how that is incorporated into the daily life of the school, the core belief is that children should be familiar with all elements of the ecosystem in which they live. This develops at the most early and fundamental level an empathy with the natural environment. “In loving nature, we learn to respect all living things and their diversity.” One of my favorite signs in the whole school – and one that I think we need to create for CNS was “Please Touch”. This sign appeared in a nature room – that was filled with bones and natural artifacts. It did look museum-like; but the “Please Touch” invitation fully captures the spirit and beliefs of these schools – that children are meant to directly interact and experience nature and materials so that they truly engage and understand their world.
Again the internal environment of the school space was absolutely beautiful. Functional use of every space – documentation that illustrates the work of the children; along with telling the story of the school. Children’s artwork is displayed everywhere. This is a preschool – and it was a regular school day – so we were also treated to observing and watching the children interact with each other, their teachers, and their environment.
Our second stop of the day was II Mulino – Toddler Center. This center serves children 3 months – 3 years. We were treated to a delicious lunch – that was prepared and serve at the center. Each of these centers (there are 10 throughout the city) have a cook on staff to prepare the meals for the children each day. Every interaction between people is loving. Everyone recognizes each other with respect and affection. It is contagious. The mutual respect that each has for each other is genuine and beautiful.
Our time here was spent visiting all the classroom spaces. It was here that I spent a little more time understanding and thinking deeply about the documentation. For me, this has been a constant source of wonder and frustration at times when I think about how and what we should do at CNS. I plan to blog only about my observations and thoughts in terms of what I learned in a subsequent post. In fact, I am developing a list of such themes that will follow this trip – as I move from reporting to reflecting on this incredibly journey of learning.
For those of you following this space – please comment below with your questions. What would you like to hear more about? What sparks your curiosity about this trip?