New Ice Cream Shop at Hopewell ECS

Beneath the Surface of New Ice Cream Shop at Hopewell ECS
Posted on 10/14/2019
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Learning through Personalized Play features dramatic play ice cream shop created by studentsA new ice cream shop opened its doors at Hopewell Early Childhood School - and everything from the money and ice cream to the menu and drive-thru window was created by the students who dreamt it up in the first place.

It all started with a simple question teacher Elizabeth Farris posed to her kindergartners: What could we add to our learning space to use during play workshop? From there, students took the lead on suggesting different options, voting on them, coming up with a list of required materials and problem-solving how they would obtain them.

Eventually, they broke into expert groups, each one tackling a different aspect for making their shop a reality - the menu, the storefront sign, the treats and the drive-thru, for example. Students had the opportunity to choose how they wanted to use their talents to contribute to the end product. 

“This project was 100 percent student-led,” said Farris, who decided to tie it to her students’ daily Play Workshop. This time was added to the kindergarten curriculum when Lakota began offering all-day kindergarten to all students without the lottery system. “Play has often been called the work of children because they learn naturally through play and discovery. Projects like these allow children to take ownership over their learning and allow them to learn in an engaging and authentic way.”

Student ownership and choice is a defining element of personalized learning, an approach that all Lakota educators across all grade levels have been challenged to integrate into their teaching this year. Project-based learning is just one format, among many, that not only lends itself to more personalized learning, but also addresses different curricular standards all at once.

Farris rattled off at least a dozen different standards the experience touched on, including the more obvious ones like letter formation and letter/sound correspondence for language arts and currency, adding, subtracting and number comparison for math. Others came about more organically though - like when the class decided to write a letter to another teacher asking if they could borrow her play shop. That yielded a whole discussion about writing for different purposes.

Even lessons on being a part of a community, having a common goal, sharing responsibilities and basic economics - all social studies standards - came into play. 

“The project took us well beyond the traditional standards,” said Farris, noting the critical lessons her students learned throughout the creation process and even now as they use the space for dramatic play. “Respecting the thoughts and opinions of others, sharing, taking turns, collaborating, problem-solving, using their creativity, speaking and listening to others. I could go on and on.” 

Those types of soft skills are exactly what make up Lakota’s recently released “Portrait of a Graduate.” Because the goal is for graduates to not only possess these skills but to master them, the idea is to introduce them at an early age and then build upon them year after year.

“This kind of hands-on, student-led learning as early as kindergarten is exactly what it’s going to take to help prepare students for life after graduation,” said Lakota’s Executive Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Keith Koehne. “We can’t expect them to think critically and collaborate in a work setting if we don’t throw them into those types of situations early on and regularly.”