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The Natural Playscape Book

School: The College School

City/State: St. Louis, MO

Grade(s): K

Format(s): Children's book

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Science and Technology, Visual Arts

Project Overview

Kindergarten students at The College School in St. Louis, Missouri created this book, as documentation of a project during which they studied nature through the creation of “small worlds.”  Inspired by the book Childhood and Nature: Design Principals for Educators by David Sobel, teachers led the kindergarten students through the design and creation of a natural playscape area on school grounds. To create the playscape, students used natural materials to create models, and then translated their designs to two-dimensional drawings that were displayed in the school. Next, they made lists of needed materials and visited a local material and supply store. The final playscape, built with the help of adults, includes bird feeders, wind chimes, sculptures and native plants.  The space, designed by children, for children, is open to all students at the school.

This book includes documentation of the playscape project, as well as letters to animals the children observed in their local environment, including squirrels, tadpoles and birds.  The text includes a combination of observations and wonderings about the animals as well as invitations to the animals to come and visit.  Finally, the book includes lists and illustrations of the native plants in the playscape, the elements the children created and photographs of the children working on the project.

The College School has a long-time affiliation with the Reggio Emilia preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy, schools that focus on high quality art studio environments for young children that encourage creativity and expressive cooperation. 

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Showcases both advanced student thinking (through dictated, typed text) and the emergent writing and spelling through selected scans of student handwriting.
  • An elegant visual model of layout, combining typed text, student handwriting, photos and students drawings in a professional looking format that preserves the voice and feel of young learners.
  • The final product demonstrated the integration of scientific observation, research, writing and visual art into a single representation of student work.

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can teach my reader about a topic using pictures and words.
  • With support from adults, I can answer questions about things I’ve done or learned about.
  • I can use grammar conventions to send a clear message to a reader or listener.
  • I can use conventions to send a clear message to my reader.
  • I can speak using words I hear in books.
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