A 4-5 Project Expands Learning

One of the highest levels of learning is when we create to show our knowledge. Creating requires that we juggle at least two understandings at the same time: The concept that we are trying to illustrate through the creation and, at the same time, the format of whichever medium we are using. Little wonder, then, that so many units of study at Parker end with a creative project! The learning is not only demonstrated by the project, but amplified and expanded in the creating of the project.

 Students in Rose Nolan’s 4-5 class are ending their unit study of Iroquois culture with a project that combines creativity, literacy and purposeful action to benefit others. Students read some legends of the Iroquois, like “how the chipmunk got its stripes,” and grew to understand the power of legends in a culture, and how important the oral tradition of story telling is, especially cultures that do not have a written language.

 After studying the Iroquois legends, students worked in partnership to plan and then write a legend themselves.The diversity is wide: how the deer got its antlers, how the eel got its zap, how the animals lost their voices, and how the stars came to the sky are a few examples. Students have to think of the components of a legend, and include them in their story– and in doing so, they demonstrate that they have learned what a legend is. They also have to edit and revise to make the story understandable and enjoyable to a reader, and in doing so, they show that they have competency in writing.

The written stories will matter to more than just our 4-5 students, though. They will be bound into books and the students are designing interactive play scenes for each one. When designing the toys, our students are adding a second creative medium to their demonstration of their understanding of legends. The students’ first audience for the finished projects will their Parker preK buddies.

 The final destination of these legend books and toys will not be at Parker, though. Rose was musing about a place where the books and toys might find some young children who could benefit from them. We learned of a preschool in Troy, called A Child’s Place, from a seventh grader who recently ran a very successful bake sale to benefit Unity House, and A Child’s Place is one of their programs. So, the purposeful action of one of our students has led to a purposeful action from a whole class of Parker students! When the 4-5 visits A Child’s Place, they will read their books and have a chance to play with the legend toys with those preschoolers. The books and toys will be left at A Child’s Place as a gift.

This beautifully designed project at the end of a unit brings together so many aspects of the Parker mission: The work requires thought and care as students take on the challenge of writing and creating for an audience outside of the classroom. The audience itself will benefit from having some wonderful stories with an interactive toy. The connection to the community and the satisfaction of a job well done will support the confidence of the developing writers.Their learning is amplified and expansive by being asked to create.