PBS in the Classroom

Bringing Mister Rogers Lessons of Acceptance into the Classroom

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When I was six years old, I wanted to actually live in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood. During the opening of each show, I would stand in front of the TV and scan the neighborhood looking for a ‘For Sale’ sign. Sadly, it seemed no one wanted to move out of Mister Rogers’ neighborhood. Mister Rogers and the land of make believe taught me that it was good to be curious and imagine new things. More importantly, he made me feel special just for being me.

Now, 40 years later, I am a teacher. My goal as an early childhood educator is to instill in my students the same excitement for learning and social, emotional learning that Mister Rogers gave me. Last year, I finally solved a problem that my five-year-old self couldn’t.  If I couldn't move to Mister Rogers neighborhood, maybe I could move the neighborhood to my students! After speaking with several teachers and the administration, Mister Rogers Day began to take shape.

Two weeks before Mister Rogers Day, we watched our first full episode from 1975 called “Starting School.” The class loved seeing another kindergarten class from the past. Each day after recess, we watched another episode. Once Mister Rogers asked, “What does this look like?” (He was holding up two sticks) and my class enthusiastically answered, ‘an eleven!’ Mister Rogers asked the question in 1975 and my class answered it in 2017.  That week, the art teacher asked students to create buildings that were added to bulletin boards in the halls. Second graders created paintings of the Land of Make Believe along the walls of their hallway, with a life size oak tree with X the Owl and Henrietta Pussy Cat’s house. King Friday and Queen Sara Saturday were in their paper castle. Daniel Tiger was in his clock. Teachers decorated their doors to look like shops in the neighborhood. Daniel Tiger and his friends were also well represented. Quotes from Mister Rogers on poster boards lined the first-grade halls. My room became Mister Rogers’ house. Patio furniture transformed the hall in front of my room into a porch. Inside, my smartboard became ‘picture picture.’ 

The big day began just like Mister Rogers’ day began, with sweaters! Our PTO collected over 100 paper grocery bags. I cut out arm and neck holes and a seam up the middle of each bag. Watching Mister Rogers, students decorated their paper sweaters. At ten o’clock, classes began to line up in the hall. Kindergartners, first graders and even some fourth graders joined in. Donning our sweaters and singing, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” we paraded down the hall and through our own Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and the land of make believe. Older students waved from the halls cheering us on. It was special, it was magical, it was fun!

Back in our room, the wonderful day continued.  Students used blocks to build their own land of make believe, socks were turned into puppets, and students put on their own puppet shows. The class wrote about what made them special. We watched and sang along with Mister Rogers as he told us all he liked us just the way we are. Judging from the smiles of the children's faces, they had found their neighborhood, and no one checked for the ‘For Sale’ signs. We, the teachers, felt special for giving the children a taste of the timeless Mister Rogers. 

Michelle Garmon is a First Grade Teacher and PBS Digital Innovator All-Star from Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Student Greeters welcome visitors to Michelle’s classroom with a cheerful “Hello neighbor!” “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” is stenciled above the smartboard. Michelle’s goal is to instill the same developmentally appropriate positive learning experience she had growing up into her class of 21st century learners. 

Michelle Garmon

Michelle Garmon First Grade Teacher

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