Dear President Obama

It never ceases to amaze me how the power of problem based learning gets students thinking at the kindergarten level. Part of the North Carolina kindergarten curriculum requires students identify and exhibit qualities of responsible citizenship in the classroom, school, and other social environments. It's part of helping students learn about government and active citizenship.

Students in Ms. Sisson's kindergarten class participated in a problem based learning experience called "Hooray For the Red White and Blue" a PBL unit obtained through our school's partnership with CERTL. The PBL case was introduced with a reading of the book, The Legend of the Teddy Bear by Frank Murphy and it’s a story that has been around for a century. The story chronicles the story about former Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt and the day he refused to shot a bear the which led to the origins of the stuffed animal and how it got its name. That started the student conversations and set the stage for the next phase.

A typical PBL experience has students assume a role and then work to solve the presented problem. In this case the kindergarteners were told, “You are the president of Toys USA. You are to design a toy to give the new president of the United States on the day of his inauguration. The toy must represent an interest that the president has. You must include a letter stating why you chose the toy you made.”

Students were given the autonomy to choose to work individually, in pairs, or small groups. They chose, democratically, to work in small groups. With the help of Ms. Sisson, the groups sorted out the problem’s facts, need to knows, and researched facts about United States President Barack Obama. Their final products were all based on their research findings with the ultimate goal of having students create a piece of persuasive writing. Their final products and illustrations can be seen in the slide show in this post.

Problem Based Learning methodology surely can be considered part of the current Race to the Top Fund initiative as a way to adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy. Just look at what it’s already doing in kindergarten right here at Kimmel Farm Elementary.