At any one time, teachers are likely to be working with all the children, a small group of children, or an individual on a particular project or study. We call something a project if:
For example, the whole group might be putting together a “Welcome Book” to give to new Children Firsters at our spring Open House; planning and preparing a Stone Soup Feast for their families; or researching veterinarians in order to build a pretend vet’s office. Small-group projects might follow from three older children’s fascination with skyscrapers, or three younger children’s preoccupation with a family’s new baby. An individual project might be crafting a birthday present for a parent, or making a book about snakes.
We use the word “study” when we invite the children to focus on particular content over time. A study of plants and seeds would involve planting, predicting, measuring, observational drawing and experiments that could last for several months. A study of skin colors might involve interviewing families about their ancestry; matching our skin colors to paint chips; mixing our colors with paints; and painting self-portraits and portraits of friends using the paints we have mixed. A short-term study might involve observing and drawing visiting earthworms, tadpoles, or caterpillars.
Projects and studies keep children interested and challenged; offer rich opportunities to work on the goals parents and teachers have set for individual children; and perhaps most of all, build the wonderful sense of community and shared history that contribute to children’s sense of well-being in school.
Children come to us stuffed with wonder, eyes lit bright with "projects." Their hands are eager to pull apart life's mysteries, their voices ready to shout out accomplishments, each echo adding shape to their being... Enthusiasm and curiosity race through the veins of children unless clotted by the form adults impose on their lives.