Kindergarten teachers successfully implement design-thinking, making and STEAM methods with their students each year. This progressive style of teaching will be introduced into our own curriculum this year, and the K Team is here to help! Here are a few of their favorite ways to make design projects sane and manageable for both students and teachers. They also give us some insight into their maker upgrades for this year based on what they learned at their conference.
PREPARE THE PROJECT
It’s best to link content to projects. For example, last year after learning about three dimensional shapes in math, Janet gave every child a piece of cardboard and a variety of 3D-shaped, recycled materials and let them build something. She explains, “We ended up with space ships, parks, houses, boats, etc. It was fabulous! We then did a writing project where they described their building and the 3D shapes that they used. The kids began to own and better understand 3D shapes.”
The open-ended element is essential. Don’t let students spend too much time copying samples. If you are going to use models use a variety of them so they students don’t think there is only one way to complete the project.
Young minds should practice drawing or designing something in 2D before building it in 3D. Prototyping is a learned skill that students must practice. Giving students the time to revise from their original plans will challenge them and improve their work. It also saves materials on mistakes if students are forced to draw before they make!
Ask parents to collect and bring in items for a particular project, so you don’t have to store things before the project begins!
For storage of small items, use ziplock bags or plastic bins. This will make it easier for kids to find things without emptying the entire box on the floor. Store like things together.
Legos, legos and more legos! The best part of legos or blocks is that they can be make into so many things. Janet explains, “It’s fun to see all the creations!”
Tape is a must! The children will always ask for tape, so it is important to have a lot before beginning a project. Janet is currently saving interesting recycled materials that can be used for her Maker Fridays!. Her family knows that “it is a federal offense in the Hale household to throw away empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, netting for avocados, cardboard, and leftover packaging materials!”
Address the weapon issues before creating if necessary. Kids love to create weapons. Make sure to set your rules for what they can and cannot create. For Arianne’s super hero project, she tells her students, “Our super heroes have tools to help, not weapons that hurt!”
Schedule the project, plan for mess and go for it! It won’t be everyday, just sometimes and the outcomes will be rewarding.
MANAGE THE MESS
Use newspaper to cover tables, smocks or old large t-shirts, and put paint and glue in disposable containers. Organize the messy parts (painting/gluing) in one area and if possible, have an adult be present in that center!
Allow time for clean up and praise the helpers verbally. Give warnings: “5 minutes till cleanup!” “I love the way Johnny is helping” “Johnny is on fire! Great job cleaning up!”; Set a timer and see how much can be cleaned up with in that time. “Anyone who doesn’t help is in hot soup!” (For any non-kindergarten teachers, ‘hot soup’ refers to ‘big trouble!’)
Display the creations for a short time and take a picture of the creation and designer, which can be posted and shared with parents!
Mentally prepare students for taking apart projects. Discuss what other things could be built with those same materials and get them excited for their next chance to be creative. Focus on enthusiasm about the process and spend only a little time celebrating the final product.
MAKER FRIDAYS WITH JANET
“While I have always given time in Friday rotations for creating, I would like to improve my ‘Maker Fridays’ this year. My goal is to focus less on finishing a product each Friday and spend more time on going through the process of creation. Everything is a work in process. 😉”
SUPER START WITH ARIANNE
“I will begin the school year as I have in the past with a super hero theme. This time, I will integrate the characters in our Superkids language arts program with the super heroes the children create. We will create masks from foam sheets, capes from t-shirts and fabric paint, and wristbands out of recycled toilet paper tubes.
I plan to upgrade these activities in the D-Lab, where students will create something that their super hero might need. We will brainstorm briefly as a group, sketch the item, choose the materials, and then create!
If the sixth grade K-pals have time and we can coordinate it, we would love to have them add a circuit to light up the Kindergartners’ wristbands!”
MARI’S CODING CORNER
“I plan to integrate some of the maker ideas I learned at my conference with our Superkids curriculum, especially because all of the characters in the stories have specific interests and personalities. The children could work in the lab and classroom to create things these characters would want or need. I would also like to incorporate coding with the help of Adrienne, Will or the sixth graders’.”