EATON — Preble County Educational Service Center (ESC) Preschool Director Debby Barnett spoke to board members and administrators about project-based learning during their regular monthly meeting Wednesday, Oct. 28.
Project-based learning allows students to “study a specific topic and then kind of guide the learning based on their interests,” according to Barnett. Students show what they’ve learned as they work their way through a project, and their questions and interests are taken into account as preschool teachers use student input to guide their lesson-planning and instruction.
Project-based learning makes the classroom material “come alive,” according to Barnett.
Preschool teacher Emily Mershon’s class at East Elementary, for instance, has been learning about animals, nature and the life cycle of trees by turning a section of their classroom into a make-believe forest.
“First we learned about the life cycle of an apple tree, and about all the different things we can make with apples,” Mershon told The Register-Herald on Friday. “Then our study moved out to include all trees.”
The students learned about the different parts of a tree and how they function, according to Mershon, as well as about the sunshine, water and nutrients that trees need to grow. They also learned about different types of trees and practiced clapping out syllables using tree-related vocabulary words.
“Since we didn’t have a forest to explore, we brought the forest to the classroom,” Mershon said. “The students were able to birdwatch, dig for worms, fish in the pond and identify all the various animals that make their homes in the trees.”
Students also pitched a tent in their pretend forest, grilled fish on the “camp” stove, toasted marshmallows and told spooky stories around the campfire, according to Mershon.
Mershon is currently in her second year of teaching at the ESC, having worked as a preschool and kindergarten instructor, and later an Assistant Principal at Horizon Science Academy in Dayton, for several years.
“I loved what the ESC stood for, and I’ve always loved preschool, so I was excited to get back into the classroom,” Mershon said.
The forest was set up in the East Elementary classroom’s Dramatic Play Area, a section that seats about four students at a time and allows them to use their imaginations to promote learning. The environment was fashioned out of artificial Christmas trees, leaves, branches and pine cones from real trees, and various other plants. Students also did nature walks with their families over the weekends.
The school’s next learning project will teach the students about farms, according to Mershon.
“We’ll talk about the food we get from farms, and what farmers do, and we’ll carry that into Thanksgiving,” Mershon said.
Also during Wednesday’s meeting:
Treasurer Kerry Borger informed the board that the ESC had received Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding in the amount of $58,340, as well as a broadband connectivity grant in the amount of $20,599.
Alternative School Principal Brent Short updated the board about a recent COVID-19 outbreak at the school. Five staff members were diagnosed with the coronavirus on Oct. 13, resulting in Short and about 60 other students and staff members being asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.
“The hardest part was being back in the back of the house, having to quarantine from my kids,” Short said.
Short stressed that “everybody seems pretty healthy” at this point, however, and that students and staff were expected to return to school Monday, Nov. 2.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish