How Big Is Your Classroom?

Greg Krauss is an experienced kindergarten teacher who has fully embraced the early childhood discovery learning model. Read below to be transported back to a time when learning opportunities could be found in the most unlikely of settings.

After meeting with Kim Barnes, the Head of Early Childhood, to discuss writing a blog entry for the school website, I was determined to write a piece that would give everyone “a glimpse of a day in our classroom.” As I thought about all of the experiences that my classes have had over the last few years and the children I have had the pleasure of teaching, I realized that so much of what I wanted to share never happened in our “classroom,” or at least not in the roughly 800 square feet of room 803. Our “classroom” is where we explore, question, discover, experience and ultimately grow and learn; we do that all over campus and beyond.

One day might be highlighted by a discovery walk around campus to find the perfect stick for roasting marshmallows a lesson that included measuring and comparing lengths as well as a discussion about how close we could get to a fire before we “burned up.” Honest truth…I singed a few eyelashes at about two feet when we roasted the marshmallows, so we were actually able to have a great follow up discussion.

Some days are remembered because of the time spent on the playground. Children get together to coordinate the building of a river from the water table. Think about the social skills that are developed when seven six year olds are left to their own devices for that type of a project. Another favorite pastime from the playground is the age-old favorite monkey bars. I would need more toes to keep count of how many kindergartners have come to me to share an overwhelming sense of accomplishment because they finally made it out and back on the monkey bars. This, of course, was only accomplished after many attempts (all of which were notable failures necessary for future success).

We have planted and harvested our own garden to learn how responsible one must be to take care of even just a small plot. We measured the plants, discussed the essential “needs” of most growing things and even had to work through the challenges of keeping hungry peacocks away from all of our freshly planted (and sprouted) seeds. A fence and three versions of a scarecrow later, we are still on high-alert for the colorful intruders.

We have cooked fresh cut green beans to learn about fractions and angel hair pasta to discover the challenges of estimating. We have climbed trees to learn about risk-taking and learned a lesson or two about gravity by falling out of them (NOTE: no kindergartners were harmed during this activity). We have looked at a still creek on campus to learn about reflection and stuck large sticks into the same creek to witness refraction. We have read stories aloud under the shade of a tree to discover just how enjoyable books can be.

In kindergarten, our “classroom” is the world around us, indoors and especially outdoors. I can’t imagine how much less authentic and significant the lessons of our days would be if they were all taught in room 803.

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