Every year, Far Hills Country Day School Kindergarten students participate in "The Wonder Project."
The Wonder Project is the Kindergarten Research Expo. It celebrates the curiosity and the enthusiasm of Kindergarten students while bringing together research and interview skills, art and creativity, and public speaking and presentation skills. Students pick a question they want to learn the answer to, and then follow teacher-guided steps to research and present their findings.
There were some challenges with keeping the project as a part of the curriculum during Distance Learning. However, in the end, Far Hills Kindergarten teachers Darcy Petrie and Laura Hefferan and assistant teachers Jennifer Scott and Ben Yu decided that everyone would benefit from forging ahead. "This was around mid-April, and the students were losing some steam," said Ms. Petrie. "We felt it would reenergize the students and grab their interest...and it sure did! Every single student participated and did a marvelous job."
Here's how it worked:
Step 1: Students brainstorm "I wonder…" ideas using different inquiry question words, such as what, how, where, when, who, which, and why.
Step 2: Students picked three "I wonders" to start to narrow their topic.
Step 3: Students picked the one "I wonder" they wanted to research for the project based on their level of interest and availability of resources.
Step 4: Students found resources and recorded facts. Not only did this include community member interviews the students conducted, but it also included Google Folders accessible to students and parents that the teachers populated with appropriate articles, videos, and e-books for students to use as resources. That means the teachers themselves researched 22 different topics!
Step 5: Students created science sketches.
Step 6: Students created circle map posters and/or slideshows.
Step 7: Parents recorded students giving their presentation.
Both Ms. Petrie and Ms. Hefferan led by example, putting together step-by-step videos for their sample projects as a guide for students. They held weekly one-on-one virtual meetings with each student to work through every step of the process. And they made themselves available for additional virtual meetings anytime students requested "research chats."
"Doing the Wonder Project during a time of Distance Learning highlighted how incredible the Far Hills community is," said Petrie. "Within three hours of reaching out to our community of faculty, staff, and older students asking for help, every student had someone to interview for that portion of their project, which is so important since it's probably the first time most of these five- and six-year-olds have had to sit down and ask someone they don't really know questions and have to recall the important information to use in their presentation. We also had to ask the parents to partner with us. Many students look forward to stepping up to the podium and giving a presentation for the first time. This time, they did it while being recorded at home. We counted on the parents to help us, and they were happy to do it. That's the Far Hills spirit."
We are so proud of the incredible work these students put into their projects. And we’re so thankful our impressive teachers didn’t give up on this project because of the challenges we faced this spring.