Kindergarteners Building Community One Can At A Time

Deanna Pecaski McLennan

“So there’s no more food left?”

I stood in front of the class holding an article about a major shortage at one of the largest food banks in our city. Thinking it might generate some interesting discussion I shared it during circle.

“But we gave so much food already! How is it all gone?”

“We gave 472 things last food drive!”

“What will people eat?”

The carpet buzzed with discussion. I could tell the children were worried. “I know,” Cruz stated firmly. “We just need to have another food drive, a bigger food drive this time, one for the whole school.” The children nodded their heads in agreement.

As a full-day kindergarten educator in Windsor, Ontario I intertwine children’s ideas into my classroom programming whenever possible. I encourage children to follow their interests and empower them to be co-constructors of our learning environment. The children were highly motivated to explore how to help The Downtown Mission replenish its food inventory. From this beginning, our class began a journey that would collect more than 5,000 items for donation in a little over a week’s time!

Building Background to Support the Inquiry

The children had some big ideas. They wanted to organize a food drive, reach out to the greater community and use social media as platforms for spreading The Mission’s message of need. If we were to be successful, I would need to actively support and scaffold the children’s ideas through the use of rich materials and experiences.

Reading Mentor Texts

Using mentor texts is an excellent way to help children understand a situation more deeply. I wanted our class to consider how serious an issue The Mission’s food shortage was, and connect emotionally to the problem. We read two books. In Eve Bunting’s Fly Away Home, readers meet a homeless boy and learn about the hardships he must face each day. Rebecca Upjohn’s Lily and the Paper Man helps readers understand the issues of homelessness and need through the eyes of Lily, who at first is scared of a homeless man, and eventually inspires her family to help him. Like Lily, we could inspire others to learn about and donate to our cause.

Seeking the Guidance of Others

To share our vision, the children had to ask for the support of the entire school. They wrote a persuasive letter to our principal, informing her of The Mission’s need, and sharing our ideas for how we could help. Our administration met with the children and agreed that having a food drive was important. Having their ideas valued and endorsed inspired the students. They got busy. They wrote letters to the school community, shared their message in the morning announcements and spoke



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