Caledonia — Preschoolers became construction workers and architects during free-choice time in teacher Ashley Johnson’s classroom at Duncan Lake Early Childhood Center.
At the dramatic play station, 3-year-old Lucas put on a hard hat and pretended to cut a piece of real wood in half using a toy buzz saw.
On the carpet, a group of students played with toy construction trucks and built structures from wooden blocks.
Johnson sat with preschooler Scout and encouraged her to create letters out of smaller, flat square- and rectangular-shaped spelling blocks.
“They think they’re just playing, but they’re learning how you use tools to build things and how you can use learning tools to build words from letters,” Johnson said.
During their Connect4Learning building unit, students learned social-emotional, fine motor, creativity and problem-solving skills through dramatic play and other hands-on activities. Connect4Learning incorporates literacy, science and mathematics into project-based learning where students work towards a larger goal.
Johnson said she and her students talked about how to measure things and the different tools used to measure objects and people, like rulers, yard sticks and tape measures.
The class used wooden blocks to measure how tall each student is and compared the tallest to the shortest. Lucy measured 27 blocks tall, but her classmate Molly came in at 30 blocks tall.
Johnson said she set several learning goals for her students during their building unit for them to take what they learned about building blocks and apply it to building words with letters.
“We worked a lot on phonological awareness,” she said. “We learned that each letter makes a sound and those sounds blend together to make words.
“I also teach that putting letters together ‘builds’ words, and we can build big numbers from smaller numbers.”