As the school year started this past August at Summit Kids Academy, Ms. Pat and Ms. Tely wanted to do something special with their classroom. These two greatly experienced teachers lead our 4-year-old Pre-K program, the Sharks. They wanted to create a continuous theme that would wind its way through the entire year. The idea for the theme was born from a wall art project based on the book Watch the Stars Come Out, a story about immigrants coming to America. The teachers constructed a large boat that would “carry” the children (in picture form) to a new city. But what would that city look like?
The teachers decided that with their help, the students would bring this city to life, a piece at a time. Beginning on the wall opposite the ship, the Shark’s Town Museum of Art was constructed. While the teachers made a 3-d representation of the building out of poster board and other supplies, the children each created their own individual sculpture to put on display, just like they would be in a museum, on little pedestals the children painted themselves.
The next project they tackled was the Shark’s Town Library, an effort that turned the children into the authors of their own stories. Each child, with the help of their parents, completed a questionnaire that served as the basis of their autobiographies. That script, combined with pictures drawn by the children themselves, was bound together in book form and put on display for any child to read.
As the roadway that connects Sharks Town continued around the classroom, it next reached Sharks Town Mountain, a massive poster-size cave display featuring more than a few bears the children made. The bears and the cave led to a great conversation about hibernation, a process many of the children were introduced to for the first time.
Sharks Town Fire Station No. 8 was constructed recently, another 3-d poster display featuring real pictures of the inside of fire stations and a number of fire engines made by the children. The children, who had the opportunity to meet the fire fighters and see their truck earlier this year, were enthusiastic about bringing these community helpers to their own town.
On the horizon, two additional structures are planned for construction before the end of the summer. Prior to starting kindergarten in August, the Sharks Town Aquarium will be created and will feature work from the upcoming unit on oceans, just as the Sharks Town Space Center will play a key role in the coming unit on space. What do these two structures hold for the children? No reason to spoil the surprise, but the children will learn a lot about both space and the oceans from them.
Will that be the end of Sharks Town? Of course not. Sharks Town will continue to grow and change as time goes by, just like any city does. Regardless of the components, the key lesson of Sharks Town will remain the same: There is a lot to explore in the community around us. No one understands exploration better than children: It’s how they learn.