Saturday, February 01, 2014

Social Innovation Can Start In Kindergarten...But How?

“Life is trying things to see if they work.” – Ray Bradbury  

It is no secret that students learn and think more deeply when they are completely engaged.  Nor it is a surprise that a real life learning context is often the most engaging for students.  So, is it too daunting a task to ask Kindergarten students to plan a school wide initative to educate the community about National Sweater Day? How on earth would we do this?  Outcome unknown is part of my mantra because I want the students to bring their ideas and excitement to advance the project.

The Hook:

We started with the concrete.  A discussion about sweaters seemed like a great place to start so we combined a guided drawing lesson with shared writing.   This discussion incorporated the shapes needed to draw a sweater, the patterns you could draw and also why we wear sweaters and how animals keep warm.

Letting It All Sink In:

When introducing a topic, I like to have an initial activity and then wait to see if someone takes the bait during our hour of play.  Sure enough, a few students got into the art materials and made something like this:
It was my thought to create posters to display around the school so when one of my students made a poster and wanted to copy the words "Porte un chandail le 6 février." (Wear a sweater on February 6.) I just about jumped for joy! The circle at the bottom?  That is our planet that we are trying to save...

The Work Begins:

A big part of the creative process in my classroom is sharing the work of others.  This acts as a springboard for many students and sparks some great discussion.  Our next step was to create posters as a journal activity.  Journalling in Kindergarten is expressing voice through the details in drawing.  There is not an expectation at this point for students to write or copy words but the suggestion is always there.  The morning that we created posters, the engagement was tangible with the sun shining in, the classical music playing and the quiet buzz of productivity.  The result?  Informative posters to put around the school, with a clear message delivered through endearing drawings so indicative of Kindergarten.
With our posters up around the school, we moved toward planning out our final activities.  We sorted all the sweaters we had made into those with patterns and non-patterns and signed up for either announcements or class pressure of course!  Shared reading, writing and oral language activities incorporated the language that we needed to spread the word. So, with four days left until National Sweater Day, we will be very busy getting our school informed and on board with our initiative. To celebrate, we have decided to bake sugar cookie people on February 6...with icing sweaters, of course!

The Message:

It is a lofty plan to mobilize five year olds to initiate social change.  Leading up to this moment, I have established a safe environment and encouraged students to share ideas and to independently create multiple prototypes of their ideas with a range of materials.   I trust them to play and work with intention and I trust the process of creative development.  The result?  Engagement and empowerment with curriculum learning thrown in too.  How good is that?
SO, join us to support WWF Canada on February 6.  Wear your wackiest sweater and turn down the thermostat by 2 degrees to save energy.  
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