Opal School is grounded in the belief that education opens opportunities for all children to participate fully in creating and shaping their own lives and to contribute fully to the quality of life around them.

We value the creativity, interests, ideas and questions of the children and adults at our school.
We practice listening, observing, inquiring, staying attentive, and reflecting together with children and families.
We invite our families to listen, share and learn with us.
We value the role of the arts and sciences as languages for thinking, expressing ideas, and communicating stories.
We are committed to working in partnership with our families and children to provide a rich and joyful childhood.
We embrace the contributions of our vibrant community of learners! 

Opal School values the natural learning strategies of children

  • Using the senses to look, touch, smell, listen and taste
  • Engaging in play, imagination and games
  • Using story to create meaning and see relationships
  • Tinkering—staying open to what’s possible in the moment
  • Taking things apart, reassembling them, linking them together in new ways
  • Using metaphor and poetic language to uncover and create meaning
  • Engaging others in social interaction and collaboration
  • Being willing to take risks and experimenting in the absence of fear

Opal School Mission

Opal School strengthens public education by provoking fresh ideas concerning environments where creativity, imagination and the wonder of learning thrive.

Opal School Values

  • A powerful image of the young child as intelligent, creative and capable with gifts and abilities that the world needs.
  • A belief that children play a central role in their own learning, and that learning is central to the health of our democracy.
  • A deep respect for differences however they may be expressed, and a belief that diversity strengthens community.
  • A belief that listening, dialogue and exchange open doors to unimagined possibilities, and that school is where we learn to walk through them with courage.
  • A view that learning happens when people form relationships with one another, ideas, materials and the environment.
  • A belief in the rights of children, families and educators to participate together in forming and shaping rich environments of learning, challenge and choice.

Opal School Guiding Principles

Our guiding principles for teaching and learning keep the school a living and vital place. They are the core beliefs about teaching and learning from which all school experiences are born. No principle sits in isolation. Each is connected, influenced and shaped by the others. They support an instructional approach based on listening and relationships.

Our 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 United States and beyond.

Children as Protagonists
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 as Collaborators
No child lives or learns in isolation. A child is always in search of relationships. Children learn and become themselves through interaction and relationships with other people, ideas, objects and symbols.

Children as Communicators
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.

Children and Adults as Researchers & Co-Creators
Our school is a learning community where children and adults collaborate as researchers to co-create and document experiences that have originated from their relationships, challenges and choices. 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 as Partners
Family 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. Families have the potential to bring vitality and richness to the school by contributing distinctive life experiences and wisdoms.

Strong Academics Connected to Quality Relationships
A strong academic program is best supported within a system of reciprocal relationships among people, ideas, the natural and built world, and the content and skills of the disciplines.

Culture of Respect
Respectful agreements and boundaries support the need for physical and emotional safety and order as they are identified, discussed, practiced, and experienced within a culture of listening, dialogue, and exchange between children and adults.

Environment as Teacher
The design and use of space encourages encounters, communication, and relationships. It informs children and adults about possibilities. There is order and beauty in the arrangement of space, equipment and materials.

Documentation as Communication
Careful attention is given to the collective work of children and adults by transcribing dialogue, taking photographs, and making visible the ideas of children in many media. Documentation informs children, teachers, and the public of children’s learning strategies, group learning processes, and learning outcomes. By making the powerful ideas of children visible to the public, children truly become citizens.

Organization as Foundational
The well-designed use of space and organization of materials, schedules, and curriculum are essential to the creation of a school community, where creativity, imagination and learning thrive.

Opal School Goals & Expectations

  • Discover, cultivate and express the joy and wonder of learning.
  • Develop an understanding and curiosity about multiple points of view. Have value and empathy for experiences and perspectives different from one’s own.
  • Collaborate with others to construct ideas and create new knowledge.
  • Develop an understanding of our interdependent relationship with the natural world.
  • Take action as mindful citizens who care about making contributions to a future that acknowledges living systems as an integrated whole.
  • Develop strategies that contribute to the quality of the community by having a keen sense of place, identity and belonging while respecting the rights and identities of others.
  • Read the world: Explore ideas and relationships; make connections between known and unknown information.
  • Use the written and spoken word with increasing proficiency to communicate ideas, relationships and understandings.
  • Uncover and communicate observations, questions, theories and ideas through skillful and imaginative uses of the languages of the arts and sciences, including mathematics.
  • Develop an appreciation of and capacity for accuracy, elegant design and efficiency.

Opal School Philosophy of Support for Children's Social-Emotional Growth

Opal School strives to be a caring learning community where participating in the art of living and working with each other in constructive and productive ways is a valued part of the curriculum. Respect for the individual and respect for the health of the school community are shared values of the school.

Conflicts are recognized as curriculum opportunities with the potential to transform the individual and group in positive ways. Within this context, Opal School students are supported to manage themselves so they progressively understand that they are responsible for their own actions and see themselves and their actions as directly connected and thus, influencing the school community.

The staff strives to help each student develop a keen sense of place, identity and belonging. Through a strong connection to the school community, children identify with the school’s values and build a personal commitment to participate in ways that are consistent with the values of listening, respect, responsibility and collaboration.

Contact Information
Opal School at Portland Children’s Museum
4015 SW Canyon Road
Portland, Oregon 97221

Phone: 503.471.9917
Fax: 503.223.6600
Email: office@opalschool.org

see also opalschool.org

For children ages 3 to 6.

A tuition-based early childhood program.

Check back for info on our 2021 Opal Beginning School Information Sessions. LEARN MORE.

For grades K to 5.

A Public Elementary School