Thinking about how preschool children play

You could hear the giggles even before the children opened the door to the classroom and the smiles continued once inside. The Jewish Community Day School of RI second grade students warmly greeted their preschool buddies from the JCC/David C. Isenberg Family Early Childhood program with hugs and high-fives.  Once the welcomes were over, our students enthusiastically – yet gently – introduced their young guests to the bright and airy second grade classroom.

JCDSRI second graders had designed and created games about trees for their preschool buddies. This project was a part of their Tu B’Shvat (Jewish Arbor Day) challenge in TikkunXDesign, our school’s award-winning design program. At the beginning of the unit, our students explored and played games and attempted to articulate what made them fun.  They also brainstormed a list of additional games that they enjoyed playing. They realized, however, that their 3 and 4 year-old buddies would not like every game they did and that they needed to better understand their buddies’ interests and capabilities. This is an important Design Thinking mindset we practice during Design Lab — empathy.

In the following TikkunXDesign class, we brought in several games that were designed especially for preschoolers and our students compared these games with ones that were for 2nd graders. They chose a game that they were interested in adapting and worked in small groups over several weeks to redesign the game while incorporating information about trees. Finally, it was time to test the games by pretending to be 3 and 4-year-olds! At the end of that class, students had a chance to reflect and give feedback to each other about how the games worked and how they thought they might be improved.

When the preschool students came to visit, it was clear the games were a success! Our second graders were so excited to watch their buddies enjoy the games they had created. It was an afternoon filled with laughter, pride and learning.