By Sarah Bayzick
PreK Lead Teacher
Throughout the spring, Lower School students have been exploring the theme: Making the Unseen Seen. This led the PreK students to ask, “Can we share our imaginations? How do we make known the big ideas inside our heads?”
The answers became clear during our study of simple machines. In addition to learning about conventional uses for such devices (“That see-saw is a big lever!”), the children imagined marvelous new ideas:
“I think you need a pulley to feed unicorns. They are very tall.”
“We’ll put an inclined plane in the diamond mine – so trucks can haul out gems.”
“The lever is really a magic potion machine.”
“I wonder if you could use a wedge to pry open a pterodactyl’s beak? Or a hawk’s?”
“Look! We can use a wheel and axle to make a rainbow machine. Let’s rainbow-ize the world!”
Thus, the PreK Imagination Institute was born. For many weeks, children have been applying their STEAM learning to innovative projects. Students used their scientific knowledge to build a habitat for The Melodious Bird. (They even learned basic coding skills, allowing their avian sculpture to sing each time its beak tilts open!) Additionally, the PreK explored prisms and created custom artwork for a giant kaleidoscope (The Rainbow Machine). They engineered a six-foot Hungry Unicorn that requires a pulley to move food from the ground to its mouth. Students measured, drilled, hammered, and tested angles for an inclined plane needed to truck gems from The Dangerous Mine. They used similar math skills to construct a lever that distributes water through The Magic Potion Machine. The children considered music and sound, connecting movements from The Carnival of the Animals (composed by Camille Saint-Saëns) to each element. Finally, students brought their learning to life through story by creating a short film; we hope you enjoy it!
This project, Making the Unseen Seen, reflects the pedagogical beliefs and values of our PreK program:
- We recognize children as thinkers, researchers, and collaborators. Young learners can tackle complex problems and grasp sophisticated concepts.
- We are committed to partnering with students and creating curricula driven by their passions and imaginations. Children should help shape our school.
- We seek avenues for the connection, rather than separation, of knowledge because a child’s way of learning is multidisciplinary.
- We believe that creativity belongs to all of us. People are not creative in general; people are creative in doing something concrete. When we encourage our students to be innovators, we’re challenging them to apply their imaginations to the production of something tangible. The hardest thing we ask of a child is to take an idea hidden in one’s mind, realize it, and share it with the world. That’s what creativity is. We all have this capacity, but creativity requires a context that allows it to develop. We strive to provide an environment where creativity can flourish.
A mentor I admire often says, “Teaching is joyous because it is joyous to discover the world.” Young children have a way of looking that takes everyday things out of the ordinary and makes them special. At times, adults may be eager for children to adopt our conventions and rules, accidentally censoring their ideas. We forget that children’s imaginings let us think beyond the horizon, glimpse new things, and open ourselves to courageous, limitless possibilities. There is tremendous power in Making the Unseen Seen — once we (children and adults) come to expect that we can realize our dreams, we stop burying our big ideas.
Click below to see Bayzick's making-of documentary on the PreK spring project. For more photos, click here.