As a parent have you ever looked at a unit or activity that your child is doing at school and thought, “They already did this”? Sometimes we think that once a topic is covered, it is learned and does not need to be revisited. But young children are constantly growing and changing. They gain new information, synthesize that with what they already know, and come up with new ideas and conclusions. This not only allows for, but encourages us, to revisit topics with young children over time. Our study of the Olympics this week provides an example how understanding develops over time. We are able to see across the ages of our youngest learners, the stages of understanding a simple thing like a country’s flag.
We begin our three day pre-kindergarten where our three year olds pour over the flags of countries from around the world. By listening to her students, the teacher ascertains that the students are noticing the colors and shapes on each flag. Through discussion the teacher works with the students to brainstorm the colors that they see. They discuss each color and conclude to use the colors red, pink, blue and white on their own flags. A similar process goes on for shapes and it is decided to have a heart, cross, circle and diamond. Several designs were created and the students voted on the one that they preferred. The result of their work is this flag:
We move on to the slightly older five day pre-kindergarten. In this classroom, the children use a similar color and shape strategy but add an additional element. The students want to include words to describe Olympic athletes. From “belonging to a country” to “strong” and “mighty” to “stay out of trouble”, each student got their own star and dictated their attribute to their teacher. These children began to take the flag to a more symbolic place and the result of their work is this flag:
From here we go on to junior kindergarten, these mostly now five year olds take an even deeper approach. They focus in on the values of the Olympics. To design their flag, they meet together and discussed words that represented their class. From there, they choose the values that they feel best represent them in an Olympic way. They create images to reflect each of these values and then each child not only writes their name, but draws their picture onto the flag. This shows a deep level of understanding that flags use symbols to represent the positive things that we want to highlight about a group of people. This is the result of the junior kindergarten work on their flag:
We conclude with our oldest early childhood students, the kindergarteners. Here they examine the meaning behind the symbols used in the American flag. They talk about how the stars represented all the states and the stripes represented the beginning of our country (the colonies). They hold a class meeting to talk about how they could make something to represent their own class the way the American flag represents America. Then, the class brainstorms a list and votes to have their flag include 10 stripes – one for each student, two stars for the teachers and one cross for Jesus. Each child then colors one stripe in his or her favorite color and the stars and cross are placed in the center. The result is this: