Greens Farms Academy is a PreK-12, coed school in Westport, CT

Project-Based Learning in PreKindergarten: Raven and The Box of Daylight

Project-Based Learning in PreKindergarten: Raven and The Box of Daylight
Every spring, the PreKindergartners develop a long-term, interdisciplinary project. This learning is driven entirely by the children’s interests and imaginations; students author the work. We partner with the PreKindergartners by bringing their questions and passions into our academic program. Young children need to know they are taken seriously, and their ideas are worth acting on. Although the students’ projects differ greatly from year to year, our objective remains the same: We hope children will learn to take ideas hidden in their minds, realize them, and share them with the world.
This year, Gerald McDermott’s trickster tale, Raven and The Box of Daylight, captured the collective imagination of our students. McDermott’s text asks, “How can each of us bring light to the world?” The children reflected on this question and wanted to share it with others, so they created a film that brought the story to life!
Many areas of learning were incorporated into The Raven project. Children studied the science of birds and observed a real raven (named Edgar), comparing him to their fictional hero! For the film, children engineered large-scale puppets and props that operated with simple machines. Students used these physical tools and technological applications to tell the story. Additionally, the PreKindergartners joined their Lower School peers in a mini-term study of sustainability. The children explored aspects of environmental protection by using reclaimed objects (that would have been discarded) as building materials. The enchantment of stories can transform a small, everyday experience into something adventurous and epic! Repurposed items are the perfect tool for narrating as they, too, morph from ordinary to extraordinary.
Sustainability is not just about the environment but also about how people relate to, partner with, and learn from one another. These connections can be achieved through storytelling, leading us to wonder: If objects can be reclaimed, can words be reclaimed, too? The PreKindergartners think so! While planning their film, students discovered a poetry book, The Lost Words, written by Robert Macfarlane. His text heightens readers’ sensitivities to the often-overlooked beauty and wonder of the natural world. Students integrated several of Macfarlane’s once-lost words and ideas into their narration.
Through telling stories, reclaiming objects, reviving lost words, and noticing beauty where it had been forgotten, an overarching theme emerged from the students’ work: Young children have a way of finding unexpected treasures in the world and its people. With that in mind, it seemed valuable for students to reflect on their unique strengths. These qualities can be hard to see in oneself, and it might be that as we get older, the things we want or value most are also the things we are afraid to say. So, the PreKindergartners are recording words now, words about themselves that are too important to lose, because they reveal how each child brings light to the world. Children, unfailingly, find the best in others. We hope this project helps children see the best in themselves.