This August, six children entered the early years classroom together for the first time. Though some of them were in their second year in EY, starting a new school year with new classmates is like starting anew. Of course, there is shyness and nervousness but also excitement and curiosity. When children are three and four years old, life is still very much “all about me!” Making that cognitive stretch to think of others and consider other’s ideas and opinions can take time and may seem uncomfortable at first. Consequently, teachers need to slowly but surely put in the building blocks necessary for a sense of community to emerge and for the children to start feeling part of a group and value being with others. For the first few weeks, teachers observe, listen, and reflect on what they see and hear the children do and say. We slowly get to know each other and with time trust appears, relationships are built, and collaboration starts to become something the children seek and value.
This year, teachers saw an opportunity to start building the children’s sense of community through a project. We received two big boxes this summer and asked the children what they would like to do with them. One person proposed to build a rocket, drew a picture of it and when teacher proposed this idea to the group, an avalanche of ideas emerged!
S: I want to make a rocket to go to the moon.
A: What do we need?
S: Windows, fire to blast off, triangle on the top, we could make costumes with a helmet.
L: We could put a car inside
A: What would the car do?
L: Go on the moon
Ak: We can put ice cream inside
A: Like space food?
Ak: Cookies too and chocolate
Z: We can draw on the box and paint after we make the rocket.
A: What will we draw or paint?
Z: Buttons. We can bring scissors and cut pieces and make it cute. We can make a coat and helmet like astronauts.
E: We can draw on it!
A: What shall we draw?
E: Astronauts, sun and planets. We can make the darkness of the sky in space.
Z: We need the stars and moon in the sky!
Ak: We can turn off the lights!
A: I have an idea, I wonder if we could get fluorescent paint and make a night sky and then when we make it dark it would glow.
And so our rocket project began!
Our goal during this project will be to help the children to develop the dispositions of good collaborators by listening to each other, learning to make group decisions and share materials and resources as we make our rocket. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to help the children experience the elements of Design Thinking : Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test. As we make our ideas come to life, some of our ideas will succeed and others will fail, but the important thing is that we will do it together, as a group.