Pre-K Teacher Reflects on Civics Makerspace Project with Boston College Professor

Last school year, Pre-K teacher Anne Krane and her class had the tremendous opportunity to work on a special project with Jon Wargo, Assistant Professor at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education. He proposed a new curriculum to teach civics to the primary grades called the Civics Makerspace Project. Even though her students are 2.9 and 3 years old, Krane and Wargo saw their potential and were excited to give it a try.

“The project was largely interested in examining how young children use the contemporary affordances of makerspace tools and immersive technologies to ‘make’ a difference,” says Wargo. “The study examined how ‘making’ provides opportunities for civic engagement, including teaching young people how to participate and question public ideas across contexts. Saint Columbkille Partnership School was a perfect place for the project as they both share the same goal of not simply making more just social futures for children, but imagining possible futures rooted in respect and care.”

Overall, the goal of the project was to teach students that they could make a difference in the world and help make positive changes. They also have a responsibility to stand up for and look out for anyone who might need help. Jointly designed by Krane and Wargo, this multi-faceted project explored maps, geography, citizenship, responsibility and civic engagement. The students actively used this vocabulary as they creatively built the project.

The students were told that there was a fictional mayor who wanted to build a playground, but the mayor wanted input from children on what should be in it. The children dove into this endeavor with open minds, wanting to put everything into the playground: from dinosaurs to giant felt boards. They discussed it, made collages, and made lists of the things they wanted to include. Krane and Wargo then slowly introduced some challenges, which narrowed the project: they could only choose eight items to put into the playground. The students had to talk about what was the most important, and agree on their top eight.

They also introduced some images and figurines of the friends that would be using the park: big kids, babies, elderly people, people with skateboards, people in wheelchairs, dogs, etc. The students had to adapt their design to meet the needs of each person in a community – not just themselves or just the Pre-K class.

It is rare to teach a Pre-K lesson that allows students to think outside of their very small world. This project made them feel creative and important; they felt like leaders. They practiced empathy and thought hard about the wants and needs of others. The outcome was an amazing 3D map of their playground, of which they were all so proud.

“I loved watching students stretch themselves in these ways, especially at a point when they are developing their own sense of identity and their role in their world,” says Krane. “When I see the alums from that class in the halls this year, a few of them still bring up “Our Playground” and the experience we shared together. I loved working with the lab school on this project, and I look forward to the seeing where the students take this important knowledge!”