Project-Based Approach as Early as Kindergarten

I recently registered my five year old daughter for fall kindergarten. In the registration process she was assessed to measure her readiness. She was asked to identify letters of the alphabet, count as high as she could (the evaluator stopped her at 100), draw basic shapes (triangle, square, rectangle, diamond), recite her address and phone number, balance on one foot, and various other measures. The entire process took about twenty minutes. The evaluator administered these quick samplings to assess language skills, motor skills, number skills, and body awareness. The evaluator was looking to see if my daughter possesses the skills necessary for success in kindergarten or if any interventions might be necessary. In the post-evaluation conference, the evaluator remarked, “If all kindergarteners came to be as prepared as your daughter, my job would be so much easier.” I smiled. I never questioned whether she was ready.

The questions I did have swimming in my head were around the school’s readiness to teach my child and support her based on the skills she would be carrying with her to kindergarten in addition to the ones she was lacking. Did the report that went into her file reflect that she comes from a preschool environment that uses a project-based curriculum to engage its students in the learning process? Did the report show that she seeks out new learning by asking questions and hunting for information?

In my own query, I was charged with finding kindergarten designs that use self-directed learning. I uncovered an Edutopia article and the video Kindergartners Explore Through Project Learning highlighting The Auburn Early Education Center. There are so many things I love about this literacy-rich design including the emphasis on problem-solving, critical thinking, integration of the arts, and authentic learning experiences as a means to engage with the content.

This finding led me to asking my own set of questions to the school where my daughter will attend:

1. How do your teachers incorporate in-depth and rigorous inquiry?

2. How do your teachers allow for voice and choice and integrate open-ended questioning?

3. How do your teachers allow students to revise and reflect on their own (and other’s) work?

4. How do your teachers teach and assess skills like collaboration, critical thinking, and communication?

These are all skills and behaviors I will continue to nurture at home. Just last night the dinner conversation explored selling our garden vegetables curbside. My daughter considered designing a vegetable stand, meeting with a carpenter to build her design, setting prices to compete with supermarket prices, packing vegetables in plastic bags, paper bags, or wooden crates, and interviewing a local farmer to better understand how to operate a CSA.

The Auburn Early Education Center’s vision is that all students have opportunity for meaningful, integrated experiences that nurture natural curiosity necessary for life-long learning. Agreed.

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