Dreaming and Building

What is your favorite memory from this past school year? What moment or experience stands out the most? I asked my student's this question during our last week of school, and many shared that building our playhouses was their favorite memory! I believe it's because they were able to be creative, use their hands, see their vision come to life, and play in their very own playhouses!

This type of learning is what excites me and gives me the challenge that I need! I went so many years just planning to plan, and planning for what I thought would engage my student's, that I was so bored, and quite frankly over teaching! Following your students wishes, desires, and interests can be so fun, chaotic, and rewarding! Below is the journey we took together with our playhouses.

We began our journey back in August. Everyone knows that in August, kindergarten world is crazy! A good crazy though. Kids are learning how to be at school, wait for lunch and snack, how to transition to and from specials, how to put their things away, how to get around the school and more. To help adjust to our new normal, we incorporate many breaks, extra play time, and we get outdoors!

This past school year, I moved to a brand new, beautiful school in my district. It has a very open concept, has large floor to ceiling windows, room for collaboration, and many areas to explore outside. I am blessed to have a patio outside my room, that opens to a grassy area. I had an idea for a quick break for my students. I simply gave them a clipboard, blank white paper, and a pencil, and we headed outside. We sat down on the sidewalk and I asked, "What could we put here, or what would you like to see in this area?"

It is as simple as that. A simple question that sparked an idea! Books and pictures are also great ways to inspire your students! Think of it, 24 curious, creative, and excited 5 year olds ready to dream big! There is no one better to dream with!

They drew treehouses, an obstacle course, playhouses, and more! After we went inside, we took each students drawings and joined up with a friend to talk about what we drew and added more details. We discussed that we would need to look at each option, decide the pros and cons of each, and how we would determine which one we wanted.

After a few days of discussion, we decided to vote on which option we wanted. The top votes were an obstacle course and a playhouse. After lots of emails, discussions with our admin, and reaching out to local companies, we ran into some obstacles for our obstacle course, and were not going to be able to do this option. We pivoted to our playhouses, and I am so glad we did!

We brought in our principal to ask if this was even an option we could pursue, and discussed where we could put these, and how we could pay for them. That week, a colleague informed me of the Forum Credit Union Educator Grant. What perfect timing it was! I showed this to my students, we talked about what a grant was, and we filled out the application together! Bringing the students along with every step truly gives them ownership and allows them to see all of the hurdles and steps it takes to complete a project.

Weeks later we found out that we received our grant, and would be able to start purchasing and building our playhouses! Before we began, we celebrated with a party.

Next, came the fun part. We quickly googled playhouses on Amazon and Target, and found a few that we liked. We looked at how much money we had, and calculated how many playhouses we could purchase. We discovered that we had enough room and money in our budget for 4 playhouses and even some money leftover to purchase some fun outdoor toys.

We anxiously waited for our playhouses to arrive. When they did, I needed a game plan to allow for my students to be a part of every step of the building. I laid out our materials on the floor so they could see the letters labeled for each part, and organized our screws and nails to easily find what we needed.

My students were so excited to help build! They were able to use the screwdriver, drill, and more! Seeing their eyes light up with excitement as they built, was worth the busy and sometimes chaotic days. Thankfully we had some volunteers who could help me oversee and manage all the parts and kids.

To conclude our project, we organized our toys, made videos on how to play and take care of this new area, created a sign up sheet, and shared this new area with our school. We love this space and cannot wait to get back next year and play some more!

How can you start your year by allowing your students to dream big? What problems can they solve? How can they see their dreams and wishes come to life?