Let’s face it. We all have preferences when teaching a specific grade or division. For me, it’s the Juniors. I find that students in grades four to six have a degree of independence regarding task completion, while still being excited about school and learning. What sometimes feels out of my league are the students who are in kindergarten. Sure, I’ve walked past and seen the magic that is a kindergarten classroom and have even entered a time or two to engage in the fun but there’s always been the opportunity to retreat into the comfort of the Junior classroom. But not this year! I’m teaching STEM to 2 kindergarten classes and I’m learning so much. As learners, kinders are: capable, creative, and excited.
I’ve heard it said that you don’t know what you don’t know. I started the year off with all my classes learning about design thinking. With differing projects for K-2 and 3-5, it was an opportunity to see what students know and what they are still learning. For my K-2 students, we started off with magical envelopes that were dropped off and in them, we found different animals. Now we all know that an envelope is not a home for an animal so we quickly got to building habitats for our animals, learning along the way what each of them needs to survive. When it came to the build, I quickly realized that some students already knew how to hold scissors and cut, while others needed support. But let me tell you, they quickly got on the scissor-learning train because there was a task to complete and they were eager to do the job. What I’m learning about kindergarten students is that when given a challenge and support with learning, they are capable. While building their habitats, I saw students that were giving each other ideas and supporting friends who needed a hand with glueing or cutting. At the end of our build, they were so proud to share their creations with each other. This was an excellent reminder for me that although they are little, they are capable of so much.
Kinders are creative. They design something and the stories they can tell based on a picture alone are wildly imaginative. We started our year reading some of the books from the If I Built Series. When asked to let their imaginations flow, students designed playscapes that would rival any playscape on the planet. Equipped with swings and slides that were inclusive of a variety of needs, they thought of their friends and family members and what they might like. While many used the ideas from the books, there were a number that made their own designs that were unique and out of this world. I enjoy so much that students at this age have not yet attached being “good at” art or drawing to their level of creativity. Everyone got a sheet of paper and everyone excitedly started drawing their creations with their crayons.
These little people are excited about school and learning. Every challenge laid before them from building their habitats to coding our robots has been met with great excitement. They are eager to jump in and give things a try. I love the fact that they don’t yet feel as though they have to be perfect at something to be excited about doing it. I know that this happens much later in the lives of students and I often wonder how the process happens. At what point does the excitement of learning become scary and daunting or dare I say exhausting for students? It’s so refreshing to work with our youngest learners because of the excitement they bring even to tasks that I may perceive as simple.
The start of the year has been filled with much reflection and learning for me. I’m looking forward to the other lessons I will learn from the kinders and to the experience becoming even more familiar.