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:

  • it requires continuous collaborative planning by teachers and children;
  • it asks each child involved to take some responsibility for the work that must be done;
  • it allows individuals to choose their own way of contributing to a community effort; and,
  • it integrates various subject and skill areas.

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.

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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.