Ellen Schwartz

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Special Section 1




I first came in contact with The Prospect School and Center in 1984. I had just completed my first year of teaching and, at the recommendation of a professor from graduate school, I signed up for a Summer Institute. I had little idea what I was getting into, and when I arrived I discovered that many of the other participants had connections to Prospect’s methodology through participation in local inquiry groups. We read and discussed books like Ernest Schachtel’s Metamorphosis (1959) and Edith Cobb’s The Ecology of the Imagination in Childhood (1977). Though my grasp of this material was tenuous at best, it nonetheless fascinated me and left me hungering for more. At the heart of the Institute was an extended child study of Holly, a child then attending The Prospect School. While Holly was at the school, another wing of Prospect, the Archive Scholars and Fellows Project was engaged in an in-depth study of Prospect’s collections of children’s work and teachers’ narrative records. Their work was soon thereafter published as the Reference Edition of the Prospect Archive, comprised of longitudinal collections of the work and records of 36 children, with a slide selection and catalogue for each child. That summer we worked with the still developing collection of Holly’s work, describing several pieces and closely reading the records to date. Late in the week, we went to the school, where Holly’s teacher, Jessica Howard, presented a Descriptive Review of Holly, a portrayal of Holly with a focusing question to which we were invited to respond. (Descriptive Review of the Child is one of Prospect’s collaborative inquiry processes and is described more fully in From Another Angle [Himley, 2000]). As I listened to Jessica, I felt that I already knew Holly, even though, in fact, I had never met her. That alone might have sold me on the value of what was going on at Prospect, but there was more.

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