Kindergartners Chip Away at Question Bank

Liberty Kindergartners Chip Away at 100-Plus Question Bank
Posted on 01/17/2020
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Collage of kindergartnersHave you ever wondered why boxes are made of cardboard, why tigers have stripes, how skyscrapers are made or who invented numbers? These quandaries - and so many more - are what fill the minds of kindergartners in Christa MacFarlane’s class at Liberty Early Childhood School. The best part of all: They’re getting answers.  

“We have this giant stack of standards that we get to teach, but have we asked them what they want to learn?” asked MacFarlane. “How do you give a kindergarten student voice in their learning?” 

It was a question that the six-year Lakota teacher asked herself one day before launching into a new lesson she thought up on her own that has reinvigorated both her and her students. For 10 minutes straight, she challenged her students to drill her with questions. “What’s on your mind? What are you wondering about?” she asked. “What do you want to learn?”

“It was non-stop. I literally couldn’t keep up,” she recalled. “They are just craving information and answers to things they see in their worlds every day.” 

From there, MacFarlane dumped all of their questions into a single list that she circulated first among her parents and then throughout the entire building, challenging them to help her students find answers. One visitor at a time, the class has been crossing questions off their list. 

One of the first responses came from a parent who agreed to share all about her recent trip to Paris. Another parent, in a quest to answer how “Liberty Paws” stickers are made, took it upon herself to find a video about sticker making and then connect with the school’s vendor. Another Liberty ECS staff member connected MacFarlane with Lakota’s braillist, who tackled the question, “How do blind people do things?” She brought along a personalized braille nametag for each student and lots of other books and tools for them to explore. 

Melanie Stein appreciates that the experience has given her a chance to learn more. Her classmate, Mason Gabbard, talked about the excitement of learning new stuff. He was looking forward to an upcoming visitor who will answer his question: What’s inside a wire? 

Another student,
Marlo Lodovico, decided to take it upon herself to answer her own question: Where are real princesses and what do they do? Almost every day, she shares with her classmates another fact she’s learned about Queen Elizabeth. 

The lesson is a prime example of Lakota’s move toward more personalized, or student-directed, learning. Besides empowering her students to ask questions, MacFarlane also likes that she’s learning right alongside her students - and that her students are witnessing that. “They can see that they’re going to be learning all their lives,” she said, to which Melanie responded, “Even teachers don’t know everything!” 

MacFarlane’s strong belief in the power of asking questions has been reinforced by her recent involvement in a professional development program called InquirED. The online platform, designed to guide teachers toward inquiry-based learning, is being adopted across all six of Lakota’s early childhood schools. 

“Asking questions is where learning starts, so it only makes sense that we are encouraging students at a young age to embrace their curiosity,” said Lakota’s Director of Curriculum K-6 Christina French

In the end, MacFarlane is most grateful for her progress toward her number one goal. “I want my students to want to be at school,” she said. “I want to create a positive feeling about their purpose here and make them to be engaged and active members of their classroom. This project has really created that.” 

Click here to review the complete list of questions generated by MacFarlane’s class. If you wish to cover a topic, contact