Submitted by Madison Farrar, Rachel Brainin, and Dorothy-Ann Muus
The first grade recently celebrated their Houses and Homes projects with an exciting and informative assembly that showcased the models they constructed. It was the culmination of their Social Studies unit which introduced the study of human shelter in the six habitable continents.
To begin the unit, their teachers led them on a walk to view the unique features in the neighborhood homes close to our school. Next, the first graders studied the important jobs and trades in the construction business. They visited a local lumberyard and hardware store for a scavenger hunt to learn about the materials used to build real-life homes. While in class, the children excitedly teamed up to build one of the model homes that represented the six inhabitable continents, and then began to plan their communal creations.
Thirty-four six and seven-year old children were transformed into six distinctive construction companies with the goal of working together to create a specific type of home using available materials. To learn how to work together, the first graders focused on the words Collaboration, Cooperation, and Communication. During discussions about the 3C’s, their teachers improvised little skits to model the language and behaviors people use to work effectively as a team. They were encouraged to pay close attention to their teachers’ mannerisms, tone, and words and to articulate what they noticed about the interactions. Walking around later as the groups decided and designed, we overheard remarks like, “Let’s use both your idea and my idea!” or “Let’s try your plan and see, and then we’ll try mine.” The Three C’s were a recurring theme throughout the first-grade Social Studies unit.
In addition to practicing the three C’s during the design and building phases of their model shelter, the first graders explored the concept of shelter in various other ways. In math, they graphed necessary materials used for shelters. In Word Study, they became familiar with words related to the building trades. In science, they studied the natural materials used world-wide to erect shelters for families. Individually and as a group, our first-graders enjoyed reading and writing factual books about different types of shelters.
Once the groups decided on names for their construction companies, they collected recycled materials and began the process of designing and constructing their models. For several days, the classroom was filled with hustle and bustle and lively activity – a happy flurry of discussion and movement and industry with parents providing needed help with hot glue guns and cutting tools. The final projects were colorful and distinctive structures that included inventive, practical features such as solar panels, water collection systems and even an entrance ramp for a wheelchair!
The first graders took their jobs very seriously, and truly lived by the three C’s. The project brought out the best in everybody and really fostered a sense of accomplishment and community pride amongst the entire grade.