The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Summer 2017

Primary School Update: It’s a Small World

by Daintry Duffy Zaterka '88
Hands-on projects are helping Kindergarten students learn about the many communities to which they belong. 
If you could design your ideal community, what essential items would it include? You might start with a neighborhood of homes and add a grocery store, a library, and a school. Once all the basic services were covered, what would you add to make it perfect for you? A gourmet coffee shop? A dog park? A 24-hour gym? Fay’s kindergarten students explored these very questions this spring as they explored the idea of community and worked together to create their own neighborhood.
 
Tiny Town, as it was fondly called, was constructed from paper-covered blocks and recycled materials. While it contained many of the basic elements that you would expect in a community, the kindergarteners also incorporated custom features: a rock climbing wall, a duck pond, and a ring toss game for everyone to enjoy.  
 
The construction of Tiny Town kicked off the children’s study of community, and the experience of cooperatively building and designing the town was the perfect metaphor for understanding how a community works. “We wanted the children to understand that they all help and contribute to a community,” says kindergarten teacher Alyssa Fucci. “Although each child built a specific element of the town, everyone could use and benefit from the final product.”
 
While Tiny Town represents an idealized version of a neighborhood, the goal of the project was also to help students understand community on a broader level. “Kindergarten is the perfect time for a project like this because the children have a beginning awareness that life is about more than just them,” notes Head of Primary School Teri Lawrence. “The world is opening up, and the circles that surround a child are getting bigger. It’s important to help children understand that they belong to multiple communities.”
 
“I liked visiting Mr. Sargent because he teaches a lot of sports, and I like sports.”
—Camden Feingold ’26
 
Already familiar with the tightly-knit Primary School community, kindergarteners embarked on learning more about the larger Fay community. In small groups, the children ventured out to interview community leaders, such as Head of School Rob Gustavson, Director of Admission Beth Whitney, Lower School P.E. teacher Will Sargent, Director of Auxiliary Programs Chris Ridolfi, Director of Athletics Rob Feingold, Nurse Sue, and Chris Hill in the Facilities Department.
 
Not surprisingly, the Health Office and the Facilities Building were the biggest hits, as both workspaces featured a slew of fascinating of tools that the children could see and touch. Students learned about the scope that Nurse Sue uses to look in ears and throats, and they loved visiting Facilities and seeing the golf carts, woodworking room, giant lawn mowers, and rings of keys that correspond to all the doors and buildings around campus. They were especially thrilled to be presented with their own “Kindergarten Key” at the end of the visit.
 
As they expanded their circles of community, kindergarteners also discussed the towns they live in, and they learned how to find the state of Massachusetts on the map. Sharing facts about other states that they had visited with their families help expand children’s understanding of the different parts of the United States and where the U.S. is on the map in relation to other countries.
 
“I liked learning about Thailand. You can ride elephants to school!”
Ellie Kane ’26
 
Fay’s international community proved to be an asset when it came time to learn about life outside the United States. Three Upper Schoolers from Mexico—Maria Martin ’17, Camila Capdevielle ’17, and Almudina Sierra ’18—visited Kindergarten to read a picture book about Mexican history and traditions. Students had a chance to ask questions, learn about Mexico’s geography, sing and dance to a traditional Mexican song, and even create their own mariachi guitars.
 
Three students from Japan—Himeno Hashimoto ’17, Hailee So ’19, and Emily Tanaka ’19 —also visited the children. After reading a picture book about life in Tokyo, the girls taught the kindergarteners a Japanese hand game similar to Rock, Paper, Scissors, some basic Japanese words, and how to make origami flowers.
 
The kindergarten class “visited” seven countries in all, adding a flag and a stamp to their classroom passports for each visit. On a “trip” to Brazil, they learned about Carnivale and made masks complete with feathers and jewels. In Thailand, they learned about using elephants as a mode of transportation and the Thai New Year’s celebration, Songkran, which is celebrated with a three-day water fight. In Australia, students learned about aboriginal paintings and created their own dot paintings and stories.
 
“I wish the world was fair.”
Oliver Kim ’26
 
To wrap up the unit, the students read Wish by Roseanne Thong, a compilation of wishing traditions from around the world, and Alyssa asked each student to write out a wish for their community. Their wishes mirrored the scope of the unit, with some thinking close to home, while other children reflected on their global community.  “As you learn more about the world, you realize that you can get from here to there in a pretty short amount of time,” says Teri. “All of a sudden, that big sphere seems a little smaller.”
 
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