Coed, independent, PK3-12th grade school in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Kindergarten Construction Project
by Stacy Alexander, Director of Alumni and Community Relations
Even before students move in to the new Innovation Center and Community Commons, the Transform Campaign has already made a positive impact on the Shorecrest student experience. Kindergarten offered a prime example of this positive impact, as they followed their curiosity about the construction outside their classroom doors to pursue an in-depth investigation of construction - their driving question, "What's going on behind the green fence?"
"They are excited to see new machines, to watch the workers on the roof, and to question what machines the noises might be coming from,” shared Kindergarten teacher Alissa Vigue. From these observations, the children shared what they already knew about construction, creating word webs on the topic, asking questions they had about construction and about what the new building would mean to them and the Shorecrest community.
"Then we got together as a team to determine what we could teach into this so we can solidify their knowledge of the construction process," said Kindergarten teacher Megan Kotsko.
Over the course of several weeks, this project involved a dynamic classroom approach, like all Shorecrest project-based learning. The Kindergarten faculty helped the children build upon their knowledge of construction through field experiences around campus, guest experts and hands-on experiences, using the construction site as a laboratory. The construction theme was threaded through the various activities and lessons throughout the span of the project, from dramatic play, classroom centers, block building, and more.
For example, after brainstorming a structure to build, students drew blueprints on graph paper. Moving on to the block room, students used their plans as guides to construct their own buildings out of blocks. Students built castles, barns, houses, restaurants and schools, many closely resembling their original plans.
Several guest experts visited the classroom to share their knowledge, teaching the students the many different roles and skillsets involved in construction. Jason Green, a Shorecrest parent and an architect, reviewed the plans for the new building with the kindergarteners. "The children loved asking questions about their new building: How big is it? What will be inside? What will the playground be like? Lots of 'oohs and aahs' when they found out there will be a new dining hall and library/media center," said Green.
"He talked to the children about the design process which often includes the architect's inspiration," recalled Kindergarten teacher Joanne Minke. "He showed them images of unique buildings and structures around the world and asked them to think of what may have inspired their work. Sometimes we could easily tell the architect was inspired by nature, location, or recycling/reusing materials."
Maria Rawls, a Shorecrest parent and a General Contractor at Harvard Jolly, shared a floor plan, elevation plan, and sectional plans of a new office space. Jason Stross, a Shorecrest parent and general contractor, talked about the importance of teamwork in the construction process and how each worker has their own expertise. He taught the children about building a home, starting with pipes and a foundation. To tie it all together, David Johnson, Superintendent with iConstructors and field supervisor for the Shorecrest project showed the students a skid steer and talked about the progress of the building where they will soon have a new library and be able to eat in the dining hall.
After weeks of study, the students concluded with a project share for teachers, peers, and parents. Each student shared an individual construction-themed project, the overall products as diverse as the children themselves. Some presented books, others models, still others mobiles - each with a detailed plan outlining why they chose their given item, what materials they used and what newfound knowledge the audience should know about the item. Materials like egg cartons, clay, pipe cleaners, thread spools and spice caps were transformed into tool belts, tool boxes, front loaders, dump trucks, excavators, skid steers and diggers.
Megan Kotsko, Kindergarten teacher, said, “A project share validates their learning and puts them on stage as an expert, letting them be the teacher. Through this study, they also learned skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and making presentations, skills that will help students succeed in the future, both in school and in the world.”
Project-based learning is embedded throughout the curriculum at Shorecrest. “With every in-depth investigation students are offered the opportunity to share what they have learned with others," explains Dr. Lisa Bianco, Head of the Experiential and Lower Schools. "Students go through a process of researching and synthesizing information, and most importantly, putting their knowledge into another form representing their thinking/learning. We often refer to the shares as a 'culminating event of the inquiry process.'"
The Kindergarten Construction Project is a prime example of student-centered learning. The project evolved with students' interest in what was going on around them on campus. Instead of prescribed lessons and tight testing deadlines, teachers had the flexibility to take advantage of the many teaching moments that arose throughout the day. Even with the project officially concluded, students and teachers still talk construction as they watch the evolution of the Shorecrest campus right outside their classroom door.
The construction study sparked students' interest in the current project on campus. The Innovation Center and Community Commons at Shorecrest will serve as a meeting place for students of all ages, strengthening the community and providing opportunities for better collaboration between grade levels. Allison Hawley, Kindergarten teacher shared, “Our students are excited to have lunch in the dining hall and to see the older kids. It will help with relationships and to see the entire Shorecrest student community together will be wonderful. We are also very excited that the new common area won’t flood!”