Early Learners: “How do we make our own stuffed creatures?”
As an important part of our Early Learner (preschool) curriculum, project ideas can come from Early Learner students, teachers, and adults in our community. We use student questions and ideas to guide play-based learning projects in the classroom.
As an example of this, as Early Learners explored the language of drawing to express their ideas through the element of lines and shapes, two students worked collaboratively to draw a replica of one of their stuffed creatures. This inspired other Early Learners to draw their own creations to sew into stuffed critters or characters. Some Early Learners were inspired by their research, others wanted to make their own version of a stuffed animal, and some children were innovative in designing new ideas!
Early Learners were then given support by teachers to make a sewing pattern by using the copy machine to enlarge their drawings, transfer them to tracing paper, and then cut and pin their pattern to fabric. The final step was to use a sewing machine to sew, then stuff, and finish with the machine or hand stitching. We also had parents and guardians from our Early Learning community come in and share their unique interests in textile work.
In this sewing project, Early Learners were invited to be co-constructors of their learning with teacher support. This provided the opportunity for engagement and personal meaning while giving young children a voice and agency. There was so much joy in realizing they could make their own stuffed creatures and engage in problem-solving while using real-life tools!
3-4 Class: "How can we use alternative transportation to improve Boise?"
A while ago during a lunch-out outing, 3-4 students started asking great questions about alternative modes of transportation in downtown Boise, as they observed the new bus station being constructed underneath the U.S. Bank building. They started wondering why it was going in and how it would affect people traveling through downtown.
That discussion led to a broader consideration of diverse forms of alternative transportation people from different countries use. Students started recognizing and making connections between modes of travel, like walking, biking, using public transportation (buses, taxis, subways, light rails), even traveling by boat, and how these alternatives might be easier on the environment than everyone driving a car.
To deepen their study, the 3-4 class partnered with the Boise Bicycle Project, an inspirational local non-profit dedicated to repairing, refurbishing, and finding bikes for people (especially kids) in our community who don't have bikes. Our students incorporated their physics study knowledge of how basic machines work, as they worked alongside Boise Bicycle Project workers to learn how to make bike repairs and build bikes from the ground up.
During this unit, students also met with members of City Council to find out what they had planned for Boise's downtown transportation system. They wrote letters to the Mayor with suggestions for improvements and shared things that were important to them. The 3-4 class also visited a local architecture firm to learn how architects and engineers widen or redesign existing roads to make room for bike lanes and pedestrians. All of these activities expanded our students' understanding of how alternative modes of transportation can improve life for Boise residents.
Lastly, our students worked with the Boise Bicycle Project workers to organize and distribute bikes to refugee children in our community. They learned how to organize a community-based effort like this, but they also saw first-hand how they have the power to make a positive difference in other kids' lives in Boise.