In another example, second graders made “Place Value Monsters” using blocks that each had a value of 1, 10, 100, or 1000. Each student had to hit at least a three or four-digit number with their animal and then figure out the exact “value” of their creature. “The project reinforced the math content while allowing students to be creative and problem-solve,” says Katie Farrar.
Improve: Can I make it better?
While assessing their work with a critical eye is challenging for Kindergarteners, over time, building, testing, and redesigning becomes a habit.
This fall, for example, Primary students built bridges after reading the book 21 Elephants and Still Standing by April Jones Prince about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Using only popsicle sticks and paper cups, students had to build a bridge that would hold 21 mini bears or cubes. One group created an elaborate six-level bridge, while others had trouble creating a single layer. Every group had to test multiple solutions in order to find success.
Later this term, second graders will be building pinewood derby cars and tweaking their vehicles’ weight, design, and aerodynamic features to decrease the travel time down the ramp.
These projects help students understand that perfection is not the goal, notes first grade teacher Jill Gibbons. “One student this year said, ‘Practice makes progress!’” says Jill. “I love that because this is completely about the process.”
Kindergarten teacher Lillian Bogaert agrees. “The children definitely get frustrated when it’s not working,” she says. “But that’s good productive struggle. When it does work, it’s so much more exciting because they had to work so hard to get it right.”