Building a community block-by-block
Day-to-day events such as going to the bank, balancing a household budget, grocery shopping and working a job, are literally the building blocks of Alison Riegel’s Tahoe Elementary transitional kindergarten class.
More than 20 students milled around backstage in the Tahoe Valley Elementary lunchroom on April 14 as they set up a miniature community, including households, a bank, grocery store and gas station using wooden blocks, figurines and toy cars.
Kindergartner Erika Gomez doled out money $6 at a time after verifying I.Ds.
“I like giving out the money,” Gomez said.
Riegel said the activity comes form a social studies program based on Common-Core teaching standards for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students.
“It is a pretty cool way of learning,” Riegel said on April 11.
She said schools in Southern California have been using the same program, and kindergarten classes including hers, have picked it up.
Like other implementations of Common-Core standards at the higher level, the Blocks program places an emphasis on hands-on learning, verbal and physical interaction and creative expression.
How each school uses the curriculum varies.
“We kind of made it our own,” Riegel said.
Students usually set up block communities once a week, but the lessons have adapted to other lessons as well, including vocabulary and field trips.
Riegel said that words used in the actives form part of the word-based vocabulary, while the bank teller portion helps with mathematical skills.
“They have to decide things like $1 for gas, $1 for food,” Riegel said. “If they need $4 for food, then they need budget for that.”
Arranged field trips have included the post office, to U.S. Bank, the grocery store and other useful places that help stimulate learning.
Everything begins slow, starting in October with setting up blueprints for a community and moving forward step-by-step.
“It’s about learning how to lay the foundation,” Riegel said during the event.