The Shipley Method

Kindergarteners Explore Their Community One Question at a Time

Laura Oeschger

When driving down Montgomery Avenue on a crisp morning in the fall, one would expect to see people out walking their dogs or on a morning run. But if the timing is right, a driver may catch one of Shipley’s Kindergarten classes on the move to visit local businesses and interview their employees as a real-world learning component in the community unit of their social studies curriculum.

But before the students venture out into the Bryn Mawr community, they start small to prepare themselves well for their much-anticipated field trips.

Cultivating Curiosity
“The students generate all their own questions,” explains Jessica Davis, Shipley Kindergarten teacher. The class explores question words like who, what, where, when, and how and brainstorm together what questions would be appropriate for each community member they interview. “They’re so good at thinking of questions, as kids are just so curious naturally,” she says.

Practice Makes Perfect
Kindergarteners first get to know people in the Shipley community.

“Our community unit starts with the classroom community, where the students get to know their classmates,” says Davis. “Then we complete a peer interview of our book buddies in fifth grade.” Students finish their Shipley community interviews by selecting Lower School “grown-ups” to visit their classroom. The scaffolded interviews expose kindergarteners to an older, broader audience as the unit progresses to practice their critical thinking skills to develop questions and public speaking skills. “It is very important for students to get that experience in the classroom before we go out into the community,” explains Davis. “When the adults visit the classroom, the students have to stand up, make eye contact, and ask their question. They practice a lot.”

Taking It to the Streets
Kindergarteners visit four locations throughout the fall, including Bryn Mawr Trust, Bravo Pizza, MOM’s Organic Market, and Bryn Mawr Film Institute.

With their curiosities fulfilled, kindergarteners complete a comprehension exercise in a fun and engaging way upon returning to the classroom after each trip. Using drawing and storytelling apps on their iPads, students create multimedia projects to summarize what they learned, including photos and video clips. “Students show true ownership of their projects in the classroom when we reflect on our trips,” explains Davis.

Real-World Learning
Students learn lessons and skills that stretch far beyond the classroom.

“This unit teaches the core skills of public speaking through these interviews,” says Davis. “Making eye contact, being articulate, and having confidence are really important skills for the students to develop.” Although a kindergartener does not realize it now, this unit excels in challenging students to think critically and learn the importance of preparation, practice, and comprehension.

And in case there was any doubt, our kindergarteners can confirm that, yes, the pizza sauce at Bravo Pizza really is homemade.

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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.