You may wonder how social studies is applicable to Early Childhood students, after all junior kindergarteners have only been in the world for a few years. However, during these beginning years the students have already developed a personal history. After gaining an awareness of self, they can then look outward towards their immediate community. St. James is positioned in a vibrant neighborhood, ready to explore. So when our school chose the Chicago Fire as the topic for our first project week we were excited to step outside our school to learn about the community that persevered after being devastated by this historic event.

We began our investigation by going on neighborhood walks to let the children’s curiosities and inquiries lead the way. As we walked down Armitage it was clear the stores near our school were a topic of interest. The students already had connections to these stores and they freely shared their experiences: “I take fiddle lessons at Old Town School of Music.” “I’ve had Hot Chocolate at Starbucks.” On and on the dialogue flowed and after several planning meetings the junior kindergarteners voted on creating a Donut Shop, modeled after Glazed and Infused. By letting the children choose our group project’s topic, they will have a stronger investment and interest in learning. (5.C.ECa)

With an enthusiasm that is literally bubbling over, the children initially thought the task of creating a shop could be accomplished the day the vote was tallied. However, carrying out a complex project takes planning, time and teamwork. To lead the children to this conclusion we first had the class visit Glazed and Infused to see first hand what a Donut Shop looks like and what roles are necessary to run this type of business. We read quality, vocabulary rich literature like The Donut Chef by Bob Staake and Walter the Baker by Eric Carle to further our research. Then the children used oral language skills to plan what our store should include and the roles of the people based on our previous learning experiences. (5.C.ECb) The children used their spatial awareness skills to create a map of our classroom store and brainstormed a supply list using mature vocabulary. Using these plans, the construction of our store began and upon completion the children learned how a plan acts as a guide towards completing a task.

This collaborative piece also came into play as the children took on roles and interacted with their peers at our class Donut Shop. Social/emotional and language skills were flexed and exercised as the children used verbal and nonverbal communication during through cooperative group play. (31.B.ECa and 31.B.ECb) The social skills of taking turns with the various roles and materials were practiced. The children learned the importance of helping one another when they were workers at the shop. (31.B.ECc) Naturally there were times when disagreements surfaced and this was an opportunity to use creativity in seeking solutions to these problems. (30.C.ECc) Being participants in our Donut Shop acted as a fun and natural way for the children to practice presenting their store knowledge, the final component to our Inquiry Unit.

Celebrating what we have learned and sharing what we created is a great way to culminate and wrap up a unit. The children will be tasked with using effective communication when they welcome their parents to our classroom and lead the adults in a Donut Shop simulation activity. (1.B.ECa) They will show the parents what they have learned by taking on a store role and selling their guests a homemade donut. Then the children will take their parents on a tour of the Donut Shop and use language skills to express what they have learned, share the vocabulary words from our word wall and explain the purpose of each role. The children will show the parents the time line mural, which was modeled after the time line the children saw at Glazed and Infused depicting the history of donuts. To this time line we have added the Chicago Fire, the building of St. James and our present day neighborhood Donut Store. The children will also show the parents the artisan stories from our Ten Thousand Villages in school field education experience and their Autobiographical stories. The time line and autobiography displays illustrate the children’s connection to history and how they too have a story. Through these combined experiences the children are actively discovering their interests, exploring new directions, developing collaboration and thinking critically.

*Connections to the Illinois Early Learning Standards are indicated in parentheses.

*Please note that the money raised from our Donut Shop will be donated to the Lakeview Pantry to buy turkeys for families in need at Thanksgiving.



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