By Lauren Shapiro, Kindergarten Team Leader and teacher, Providence Day School
For most children, Kindergarten is their first formal experience in learning and, as such, we take very seriously the responsibility entrusted to us by parents. We work hard to make that first experience a positive one.
That involves us getting to know our students, understanding how they learn, and ultimately, creating an environment where students can work, learn, and play together effectively though integrated, project-based learning units.
We believe children learn best when they are taught in an environment that is physically, psychologically, and emotionally safe for them to learn by doing – by all forms of doing – by succeeding and by failing.
We hope that, by trial and error, our students will come to understand that failure isn’t fatal; it isn’t final. It’s a necessary step towards learning!
To learn this, Kindergarten has to be a place where it is safe for them to try things and fail; to try new things and fail again; and, eventually, to succeed in a way that we – and they – define success.
During our spring unit on Neighborhoods, students collaborated to create their own communities out of recycled materials.
At first, they were super excited and wanted to build neighborhoods of wonderfully fanciful places like candy and toy stores, chocolate fountains, and extra large playgrounds. And, since we placed no boundaries or requirements on their neighborhoods, with plans in hand, they began to build.
Building based solely on their dreams, they created neighborhoods filled with toy stores and chocolate fountains.
Then, looking at their creations, students discovered they weren’t fully functioning neighborhoods – how would people get food? How would families get medicine if they got sick? Who would help keep them safe?
Oops! Neighborhoods with only toy stores and chocolate fountains wouldn’t work! Their first attempt at creating a functioning neighborhood failed.
So, they began again. They learned from their failure. We provided a non-judgmental environment; they provided the trials and learning experiences. And, they took ownership, responsibility, and pride in their achievement.
While we could have told them they couldn’t have a chocolate fountain or three pet stores, the power of doing is much stronger than the voice of an adult.
In the end, they figured it out – they learned – on their own. They needed to ‘fail up’ to learn from their mistakes in order to grow.
Lauren Shapiro has been on the faculty at Providence Day for 11 years, the last 9 years as a Kindergarten teacher. She holds a BA in Anthropology and a Masters in Elementary Education. Lauren is committed to a lifetime of teaching, and seeks to instill in her young students a passion for learning and the confidence to ‘fail up.’ She, too, admits to her own trials and learning experiences, “Often, out of our first attempts in teaching, come the greatest rewards.” Lauren is a proud member of the Providence Day Class of 2000.
Interested in learning more about Providence Day?
Providence Day’s next Admissions Open House is November 1 at 2:00pm for Transitional Kindergarten – Grade 12. For their full Admissions Open House calendar, click here.