The Opal School of the Portland Children's Museum is a private preschool and public charter elementary school grounded in the belief that education opens opportunities for all children to participate in shaping their own lives and to contribute the quality of life around them.
Opal School serves as a resource for teacher-research by supporting and provoking fresh thinking about learning environments that inspire playful inquiry, creativity, imagination, and the wonder of learning in children and adults. The school practices listening, observing, inquiring, staying attentive, and reflecting together with children and families and values the role of the arts and sciences as languages for thinking, expressing ideas, and communicating stories.
The Opal Charter School’s guiding principles for teaching and learning keep the school a living and vital place. The school’s guiding principles are inspired and influenced by the early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy; research in the field of neuroscience, and constructivist practices in the U.S. and beyond.
The school operates under the principle that children have many key roles in the school—they are protagonists, collaborators, communicators, researchers, and co-creators. Children are competent, resourceful and creative with imagination and curiosity about the world around them. They come to school full of experience and wisdom in their natural approaches to make meaning of their lives. Children learn and become themselves through interaction and relationships with other people, ideas, objects and symbols.
Children make their thinking visible to us in many ways, including words, drawing, numbers, dance, painting, building, sculpture, shadow play, collage, drama, music and more. Children use many kinds of materials to discover and express what they know, understand, wonder, feel and imagine.
At the Opal School, teachers are engaged in continuous discussion and dialogue. They collect raw data and use this information to plan, prepare, provoke, assess and inform the community of the school’s practices, learning, and outcomes. Families are also partners in education and parent participation in the life of the school is essential and takes many forms. The exchange of ideas between families and teachers is vital to development of a learning community.
Nuestra Escuela ("Our School") provides educational services to youth and adults out of school who never completed their studies at higher level. It enrolls 350 students who are typically between ages 13 and 22, and maintains strong connections with the students' families. The vast majority of students have had major academic or life challenges.