|"I’m showing love coming from the whole world. It is important to help people.”|
Last spring, LP Reads wrote about the power of a text set to spark an inquiry-based project with international implications in a post called “Literature and Global Citizenship." We were so moved by what second graders could both learn and do in the real world. This year, with inspiration from a new text set and a compassionate steward, LP’s own Mrs. Miller, our kindergartners are setting out to change the world too.
Armed with a powerful group of picture books, Mrs. Miller launched a project-based, student-led inquiry unit built around her long-standing classroom themes: kindness and spreading sunshine. Together, Mrs. Miller and her class explored the following books:
- The Chicken and The Worm by Page McBrier
- Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter (hear Patrick Ruthfuss read Beatrice’s Goat and hear from Beatrice in her own words)
- One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Eugenie Fernandes
- Faith the Cow by Susan Bame Hoover and Maggie Sykora
- Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together by Herb Shoveller
- Give a Goat by Jane West Schrock and Aileen Darragh
- Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams
- Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson and Fumi Kosaka
- How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box by Linda Heller and Stacey Dressen MeQueen
- Once There Was and Was Not by Page McBrier and Stefano Vitale
Centered around the concept of sustainable giving (ala, teach a man to fish) and the idea that small gestures can net big results, this text set inspired Mrs. Miller’s kinders to wonder about their place in the world and ultimately, how they could make a difference.
They brainstormed what they could do and ultimately decided to use their newly acquired skills as readers to raise money through a Read-a-Thon to donate a goat to a less fortunate family.
With deep thought and concern, they put themselves to work to kick off a Read-a-Thon by first writing about their new learnings, perspectives, opinions, and intentions. To be sure that their families and friends could share in this new knowledge, the class then used their writing to create their first kindergarten movie (6:46 minutes):
Certainly, this project is replete with oodles of learning objectives around the to-be-expected academic measures of things like fluency, expression, accuracy, reading comprehension, vocabulary expansion, and writing, not to mention social studies (yes, of course there is a song to help learn about continents in kindergarten!). It was also packed with those softer, yet harder to measure competencies that we hear so much about as our district embraces 21st Century learning: creativity, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, and global citizenship. Beyond these academic essentials; however, Mrs. Miller hopes that through this project and other things she does throughout the year (like having her class sing to absent students to wish them a speedy recovery), that she is sowing the seeds her students need to become “radically empathetic” and compassionate -- two things that can’t be measured on a test or taught in just one unit.
Through this rich and moving project, Mrs. Miller has enabled our five and six year olds to engage in a project-based learning experience that touches all of the below areas in an age appropriate way while keeping a constant eye on the qualities that seem so essential in a time when bombs explode at marathons. One of the children’s words can’t help but echo, “Some people in the world aren’t kind. We want to give the world kindness. We believe we can do it.”
|Image from The Buck Institute for Education (www.bie.org)|
There is something so touching about authentic learning experiences that allow children, through their own volition, to engage with the local and global community to solve real-world problems and concerns --- and all the while, being given the chance to experience learning in a new way. With this simple movie, Mrs. Miller enabled her students to reflect on their own learning by letting them hear themselves read. Imagine the retakes this short film required once students heard themselves and knew that their movie was going public. There is certainly a reason that classrooms like those in Escondido have seen such success with simple things like voice recording and podcasting. It not only makes the work real for students, but it motivates them to do their best and it gives them the opportunity to learn from both their successes and struggles.
All of this aside; however, perhaps the best thing these children have learned is about their own agency and their ability to effect change through compassion and kindness. To hear kindergartners say, "I'm changing the world" and "I hope other people will pass on the gift" with such earnestness and expression is to know that this group of children is well on their way to learning a great life lesson: You can make a difference.
These youngsters will indeed make their mark on the world and I hope that you will help teach them, at this very tender age, that what they believe is true. They can change the world and we need to show them how very right they are.
If you know a kinder in Mrs. Miller's class, sponsor them as readers. If you don’t and still want to help, you can drop a donation of any size in the office at LP, or you can send your check made payable to Heifer International to:
Los Perales Elementary
Attn: Terryl Miller’s Kindergarten
22 Wakefield Drive
Moraga, CA 94556
As Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” These children are doing just that and I hope that we can rally some support for their cause so that they will be inspired to spread sunshine for many years to come.
For more about project-based learning:
See this Edutopia article: http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-guide-importanceand this segment on The PBS News Hour clip via Larry Farlazzo’s blog: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/education/jan-june13/learning_04-03.html