Arie Crown has continued to prioritize its belief that learning should be creative, student-centered, and joyous. As a Kindergarten teacher at Arie Crown, I have been inspired by the educators around me who engage in this play-based and holistic approach that allows children to learn as children learn best.
This year I took student-directed learning in a new direction with the implementation of the project-based learning approach (essentially scientific discovery guided directly by the children’s inquiry). My students focused on the changing of seasons from Winter to Spring and brainstormed a list of changes they were witnessing. From these topics, we decided pretty unanimously that most of our intrigue was centered around the question, “Where did the birds go in the Winter?”. From this essential question sprung many more questions. We asked – what do birds eat, what helps birds fly, where do birds live, and how can we identify birds. Every day students learned a new piece of the puzzle. Another central part of this approach was that students got to talk to an expert. It was arranged through the Evanston Ecology Center, that a bird expert came in and did some experiments, answer questions, and even brought in artifacts that students could see and touch. We wrapped up the bird unit a month ago by building bird feeders to use at home. This approach truly helped to cultivate and affirm our children’s sense of wonder and the meaningful knowledge that can come when directing the learning process.