Inspired by the Reggio-Emilia approach, our project-based learning combines real-life problem-solving skills with numerous opportunities for students to engage in creative thinking and exploration. Often, several different activities are going on in the classroom at the same time, as some students choose and pursue individual projects, while others work in small groups with the teacher as a guide.
Projects begin with observation, and with asking the children about a topic of interest to them. From their responses, the teacher introduces materials, questions, and opportunities that engage the childs’ curiosity and inspire them to explore the topic more fully. While some interactions between teacher and student are predictable, children often identify problems and questions that move classroom projects in unanticipated and intriguing directions. For that reason, we keep curriculum planning and implementation open-ended, employing long-term projects based on the reciprocal nature of teacher-directed and student-initiated activity.
Documentation is a major learning tool in project-based learning. It puts the focus on the process of learning, rather than on the “product,” thus creating an environment conducive to open-ended inquiry. Students have the opportunity to reflect on what and how they’ve learned, and in this reflection, gain a deeper understanding of the lessons the project reveals.
“Daniel came to KMS at 3 1/2 looking for alternatives to sitting in rows, rote memorization and a one size fits all education. He is now ready for public school. The KMS project based learning methodology gave him skills that allowed him to succeed in any changing learning situation. He has learned teamwork, creative thinking, how to use his intuition, how to enjoy learning, and how to enlist sources inside and outside the “box”… traits KMS fosters.”
“¡Viva La Mission!”
● Who are the living cultural icons, local muralists, and Latino business owners within blocks of Katheirne Michiels School?
● How has the Mission District changed over time?
● How are geometry and history related to the cultural arts of Costa de Oro Ballet Folklorico?
These are some of the questions students have been exploring in the “¡KMS – Viva La Mission!” project (2013).
“Viva La Mission!” is a KMS elementary project incorporating “vertical skills,” “horizontal understandings,” and “space for the spontaneous” as it focuses on exposing young children to the cultural, artistic and historical aspects of the Mission District in San Francisco. Immersing students in the culture through language, dance, art and music allows them to get a better understanding of Latino life while learning the Spanish language. Our beautiful neighborhood serves as a second classroom that inspires a deeper learning through organic lived experiences.
Via field trips, KMS Elementary students (Kinder through Fifth Grade) have explored the many facets of the Mission District such as: La Panadería, Dance Mission and Dance Brigade, Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, Day of the Dead celebrations, Balmy Street Murals, the Costa de Oro Ballet Folklorico performance at City Hall, Casa Guadalupe, Casa Bonampak and Mission Dolores. Some of the documentation of these field trips – people we have met and interviewed – are at KMS, and we invite you to see our emerging model/replica of the Mission in one of our school’s building blocks areas – connecting our Spanish language and cultural exploration to mathematics and history.
Gold Rush Project
For their study of the Gold Rush the class did a “living history” reenactment of Sam Brannan running through the streets of San Francisco shouting “Gold, Gold from the American River!” by going through the school and announcing the discovery of gold in our very own Dirt Mountain. Over subsequent weeks as the class learned about different aspects of the Gold Rush, they would share what they learned with the different age groups of the school from telling the story of the Argonauts to teaching how to pan for gold in the sand. The project culminated in two ways. At the school the group performed the musical “Gold Dust or Bust!” for students and parents. Then the next week a field trip was taken to the actual Sutter’s Mill on the way to Cool Camp where they studied about the geology of gold and the Sierra Nevada batholith.