A fireman, a construction worker, and a veterinarian walk into a classroom. They’re all roughly 3 feet tall and use plastic tools exclusively. This isn’t the set up for riddle; it’s playtime at Franklin Preschool where students are using Community Career Costumes provided by a Schools Fund classroom grant.
Franklin teacher Joni Miller requested funds “for new imaginative play materials regarding community workers to help [her] students learn concrete information about various professions.” She purchased firefighter, astronaut, doctor, chef, construction worker, and veterinarian costumes for her students as well as puzzles showing a diversity of people in many careers. Ms. Miller explains, “In my classroom and for all pre-k children, play is the common language upon which children find community, foster social competencies, and learn about the world around them.”
Many of Ms. Miller’s students have special needs or English is their second language. Having the space and materials to imagine, communicate, and play with fellow students is extremely important for these young learners. Play-based curriculum helps students learn to share, empathize, gain confidence, and creatively engage with the world.
We were lucky to visit Ms. Miller’s class to witness these processes firsthand. One corner of the classroom became a fire truck, where two young boys quietly took turns driving the truck and saving people for the entire duration of playtime. Another corner because the construction site: “We’re constructing a house for someone interesting! It’s for the fireman!”
One student was dressed in a velvety princess gown and cycled through many of the stations. At one point, she gathered wooden cylinders into a circle. When asked what she was building, she responded, “This is the Forest of Never Ever Coming Back.”
Toward the end of playtime, the most energetic station was the doctor’s office. BSV Director Ariana Cohen was treated to a full check up, complete with shots, heart monitoring, bandaids, and ear inspections. One student diagnosed, “You’re temperature’s not great!”
While the costumes and puzzles are most often brought out during playtime, Ms. Miller does rotate them so they continue to be engaging and exciting. She also saves some for special lessons. The astronaut costume, for instance, won’t make an appearance until their unit on outer space in March.
We asked Ms. Miller if any of the careers included in her kit were new to students: “Many had never heard of a chef. They knew of their parents preparing food but did not realize someone’s job could be making food for others.” She also quickly added that students were “completely bored by the teacher materials.” Teaching might not be the most glamorous job in the bunch, but we still think it’s one of the best.