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CREATE A Valentine's Day to Remember

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CREATE – what an amazing word!  It’s the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  It’s right in the middle of the Engineering Design Process. It’s what we want children to be able to do as they grow and learn, and what we know is one of the most memorable parts of school.  

So if we know creating is so great, why don’t we do it more often? If you asked me why my kindergarteners don’t create more in my class, my answer would be two-fold: time and imagination.

Simply put, there isn’t much time for anything outside of the standards. Creating is on the fringe of those standards since the expectation is to know and apply. The younger the student, the less is expected of them. Even as students grow, most of their standards and test expectations are simply to give back information they have been taught.   

I also find that nearly half of my students look at me like lost puppies when I ask them to create something. They don’t know where to start. Even as kindergarteners, they have already been so regimented and hurried that they haven’t been able to slow down and enjoy their own imaginations. They are so focused on the right or wrong, that they have a hard time seeing beyond the dichotomy into the world of the subjective.

The Magic Ingredient

This year, I’m focused on bringing creativity back into my classroom. The magic ingredient that ties it all together is purpose. Purpose eliminates the feeling of losing time on something because it is time well spent. It also gives those lost puppies a little boost with ideas of what to expect and where to go. My Valentine’s project started with a lesson on reviewing parts of words. We watched an episode of Pinkalicious about Valentine’s Day called “Pink Love” and the following episode called “Duocorn,” about an imaginary unicorn that Pinkalicious likes to ride and the duocorn Peterrific imagines up.  We talked about parts of words like “licious” and “uni” and “duo.”

Creating Unicorns

Then, the children CREATED their own unicorns!  Several chose to add two horns, and they used their prefix to call it a “duocorn.”  They used the art skills discussed in the Valentine collage episode and the ideas from the unicorn episode to make their own creations from a host of valentine-y materials. It was messy, it was loud, and it was fun.

It seems so simple, but there is actually a lot to be said for the creation process.  It is just the same as the Engineering Design Process my school teaches as part of our STEM curriculum. The Engineering Design Process is a way for us to examine the process of finding a problem and solving it.

The Five-Step Design Process

The design process includes five main steps: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve.  In each step, students move toward the solution or product. Although it was meant to engineer a prototype, this process lends perfectly to almost any other creation. We worked through this process as my students built their creatures.

Ask – Can you build a unicorn (or duocorn) that you would like for your imaginary friend?

Imagine – What would that unicorn look like?

Plan – What materials will you use?  How much do you need?

CREATE – The fun part!  Put all that imagining to work!

Improve – Does it look like you want it to?  Do you need more or different materials?

Creating doesn’t always have to be engineering and it doesn’t always have to be art. Think about all of the wonderful careers our students can pursue that allow them to create! We want to prepare them to be engineers and artists but also architects, chemists, researchers, and teachers. We want them to be able to use a little knowledge, a little imagination, and a little grit to get to their perfect creation.  And it can all start with a paper unicorn

Natalie Beach

Natalie Beach Kindergarten Teacher and Early Learning Champion

Natalie Beach teaches kindergarten at Prescott South Elementary School, a Tennessee State Department STEM-designated school. With 14 years of experience teaching both general and special education, she is always eager to share her expertise with other educators, particularly around creative and effective technology uses. Thanks to Natalie’s experience and her own three-year old’s interest, she most recently started using PBS KIDS Playtime Pads as learning tools. Students are highly engaged with the Playtime Pads and Natalie is excited to explore their uses even more. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Early Childhood and Special Education and a master’s degree in Instructional Leadership from Tennessee Tech University. Natalie was the Professional Educators of Tennessee Teacher of the year in 2018 and Prescott South Elementary Teacher of the Year in 2017.

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