April 2nd, 2018 by Emily Warnke

Kindergartners are never lacking in enthusiasm and energy in their learning.  When I first began my PBL for kindergarten on movement and animal research I knew they would love the imaginative whole body activities and opportunity to create.  They did not disappoint! 5 year old students eagerly “fetched” balls across a mat, crawled under bars and through hoops in a “doggie” obstacle course and vertical jumped for treats! Their engagement was definitely high level, but was their learning high level? Would they be able to connect this super fun entry event to the real work that had to be done in animal research?

I’m not sure who had the biggest “Ah-Ha”, the students or myself.  As they started to dig into the animal books to learn about their particular animal they learned that they didn’t have to be expert readers to be researchers!  Even the students that struggle at basic sight words were able to “read the pictures” to learn about their animal behavior, size and habitat.  This was a major confidence booster for the students.  They were excited by the opportunity to learn and create!

Reflecting back on my internship this summer, I imagine I was much like these non-reading kindergarten students as I stepped onto the manufacturing floor of Siemens.  I had no clue what a gas turbine was, how it was made or what it’s purpose was. (I didn’t know the simplest sight words!) That did not limit me in my learning though.  Soaking in information with every new person I met and experience I had helped me to get the most from my internship.  I still can’t tell you exactly how a gas turbine works, but I have used my Siemens experience on countless occasions. Just the other day I was describing the “octopus” robot that is used to stack metal plates in the generator plant to a group of 1st grade students.

As an educator moving forward I am intentional on giving students experiences that are appropriate for their grade level and beyond.  Sometimes we learn the most when we are pushed past our comfort level and thrown in a situation that we might feel is over our head.  Sometimes we learn things we didn’t even plan to learn!

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