Community Arts Projects
These lessons help integrate art into all aspects of a neighborhood community thematic unit.
- Grades: PreK–K
Research from Bank Street College shows that the arts transform the environment for learning. They encourage cooperative and collaborative opportunities, build self-esteem and allow for risk taking, and reach students in ways that they are not otherwise being reached.
We believe that art can and should be integrated with as many topics as possible in the Pre-K and K curriculum. If the integration is well planned and executed, it can be exciting, fun and challenging for students. We do our best to integrate art into a number of projects during our study of the school's neighborhood community.
Our Neighborhood Community (Social Studies)
Children love creating a map of our school's community. First, we brainstorm the types of businesses that are usually found in the neighborhood and whether it offers the residents goods or services. Second, we take a walk around our school's neighborhood. We record our observations by drawing the businesses that we see on individual 8- by 11-inch sized maps and taking photographs with our class camera. Third, we examine our maps and discuss our observations. Fourth, we make a model of our block by using shoeboxes as the buildings and varied materials to create random other items on the block such as mailboxes, bus stops, benches, pedestrian/parking signs and hot dog stands. The photographs that the children took, during their community walk, help to remind them of the distinct features of each business.
Class Newspaper (Language Arts)
We discovered that publishing a class newspaper is a great way to help the class become active members of the school community. Even though they are young, their ideas, opinions and observations are authentic. Early in the year, we discuss the key aspects and goal of a newspaper and then we establish reporting teams that interview people in our classroom or school. The reporting teams consist of a photographer, a reporter and a writer. Each team leaves the school to interview people that work at the community businesses. Prior to their interview sessions, we have group discussions about the interview questions. The students figure out the types of things that their fellow students want to know about the owners, employees, products or services that the business offers. Once those interests are established, the students create a standard list of questions that will be used by everyone.
Each reporting team is responsible for recording their interview with photos and notes (pictures or words). We help the teams dictate their observations and edit their photos so as to create a newspaper. Once completed, we send a paper to the elementary grades and each child in our class takes home a paper to share with their family.
My Neighborhood Book (Language Arts)
Children love to become authors and make books. This activity allows our students to take pride in their lives and make a book about their neighborhood communities. Each child is asked to take photos of neighborhood businesses that they frequent with their families. We ask them to print the photos and bring them in. They glue them into blank pages to create a book about their neighborhood. They choose 5-7 pictures that they want to use but can incorporate more pictures if they wish to. If they don't like a picture, they can illustrate it instead. On each page, we use two sentence starters, "This is..." and "Here is where ..." to accompany their photographs. As the books are completed, we place them into a themed basket in the library. We share the books with the children and urge them to share them with their parents at home.
Neighborhood Mural (Social Studies)
We create a neighborhood mural for our dramatic play area located under a loft. The loft has two blank walls that we use to create murals by painting murals on butcher paper with tempera paint and taping it to the walls. This project allows us to bring a neighborhood into our classroom and creates a dynamic backdrop for our shoe store. We have a discussion to determine what businesses will be featured on the mural. It is completed in stages. The students, with verbal guidance from the teachers, sketch the outline of the stores and the details of the storefronts in pencil. The outlines are then redone with a sharpie and then the paint can be added. It may take five to seven days or longer to complete the mural and then the fun truly begins for us because the students can then play next to and within their hard work.
The KB Shoe Store (Language Arts & Math)
This aspect of our community study is a huge hit! We set up a shoe store in the dramatic play area of our classroom. The children usually vote on this type of store because we already have so many shoes in our room! We have a brainstorm discussion and make a list of what is needed in the store such as: shelves, display area, stock room, pairs of shoes, price tickets, money, advertisement, business cards and more. We talk about varied ways to get or make what is needed. Simultaneously, we usually begin or have just begun the "How To" unit for our writers' workshop. This study helps the children practice sequencing and enables us to determine the sequence of events that occurs when you buy a pair of shoes. A standard sequence is: 1) Enter the store, 2) Look around, 3) Ask to try on a pair of shoes, 4) The salesperson gives you the match and you try the shoes on, 5) Decide whether or not to buy the shoes.
The children and families love setting up and designing the shoe store. The first year that we set up the store, we asked families to bring in their old shoes. Our intent was to donate any and all that we could not store in the classroom. We received so many shoes that we never needed to ask for shoes again. The students use the big blocks to make the shelves and display area and they readily illustrate and write out signs, labels, business cards and posters. They practice their number writing skills by making price tags for the shoes, adding and subtracting skills by calculating each sale, sorting and grouping skills by sorting money at the register and grouping shoes according to function (fancy, slippers, athletic), gender (female/male), and age (adult/child)! There are so many different ways to execute this unit. Please visit our blog and send us your ideas!
Extraordinary Shoes (Language Arts)
This activity allows the children to be creative and to use their imaginations. It helps to further our community study and is a fun shoe activity based upon the book, The Shoemaker Extraordinaire by Steve Light. The story is about a talented shoemaker who can make shoes that make everyone's life better. After brainstorming different ways to make a person's life better, the children illustrate their ideas by creating an extraordinary shoe and writing about it.
The Shoemaker Extraordinaire by Steve Light
This is the primary book for the Extraordinary Shoes lesson. It is a class favorite and is sure to inspire lesson ideas.
Madelenka By Peter Sis
We suggest this book for everyone's community study regardless of elementary age. It is about a young girl and the vast culture that she is able to discover on her block. It will help children to keep their eyes open to the culture that exists under their very noses.
Trainstop by Barbara Lehman
The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Splot
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
The Elves and the Shoemaker by The Grimm Brothers
How can you study shoes and not look at this old favorite tale? We have all heard it before but our young students are forever enthralled by these little elves. It is an oldie but goodie!
Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream by Deloris Jordan, Roslyn M. Jordan and Kadir Nelson
Sometimes we need to grab the attention of our students and even though he is no longer playing, Michale Jordan can still command attention. This is a fun story about determination and pride. Read it and see!
Shoes, Shoes, Shoes by Ann Morris
This is a wonderful look at the shoes of different cultures.
New Shoes for Silvia by Johanna Hurwitz and Jerry Pinkney
Red, Blue, Yellow Shoe by Tana Hoban
Tana Hoban is revered for the math literature that she has written. This is a great book if you are sorting shoes or if you are examining color with your young students.
Whose Shoe? by Margaret Miller