Early Childhood Students Go Sledding without Snow

Early Childhood Students Go Sledding without Snow
Posted on 03/18/2019
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students sled racing in gymLack of snow didn’t stop students at Hopewell and Shawnee early childhood schools from getting some sledding in last week. Students paired up in teams to race sleds they built during a unique class collaboration.


Tara McDonnell and Tracy Henderson teach Wonder Lab and Physical Education, respectively, at the schools. Combining their classes, students used lessons they learned in Wonder Lab to create sleds they would then race in gym class. “We both had actually seen an idea to use cardboard to create sleds, not knowing the other had seen it,” explained McDonnell. “It seemed the perfect combination of Wonder Lab - creating and making the sleds with a team - and Physical Education - racing the sleds (through) teamwork and good sportsmanship.”


For two weeks, McDonnell brought her students to the gym to join Henderson’s classes. During station rotation, students experienced aspects from both classes, such as using construction paper under their shoes to “ice skate," building snowmen from hula hoops, beanbags and scarves, using the Rigamajig building and construction set from Wonder Lab and, of course, building sleds.


Armed with cardboard, felt and duct tape, generously donated by families and staff, students used their imagination to create their masterpieces that would then be used to race. Miles Hader, a first grader at Hopewell, was very enthusiastic about his choices in duct tape. “They had Clemson and the Bengals and Michigan tape!” he exclaimed. It was a true collaboration in building the sleds, with one group picking up where the other left off during the rotations.


When race day arrived, it wasn’t just about the end result. McDonnell asked the students to think about their sleds, wanting them to consider what might affect the outcome of each race. “None of the sleds are exactly the same,” she told the class. “Some have more tape than others. Some have more cardboard. Could that make a difference?”


Holding onto a jump rope near their waist, one student pulled the sled while their partner sat on it, holding the ends of the jump rope. The students raced across the gym, stopping to stack giant cups before trading spaces and racing back to the start. Hader thought racing the sleds indoors was amazing. His classmate, Julie Rosenberry, agreed. “The ground is smooth,” she explained. “The sleds can work better because it’s smooth.”


While students often participate in group work during their school day, collaboration with other classes, including other grade levels, was a bit out of the ordinary. “It was inspiring to see some of our second graders taking on leadership roles and our kindergartners enjoying working with the big kids,” said Henderson. One of the second graders at Hopewell even renamed the special “Wondergym” as a nod to the combination of classes.


The teachers, who also happen to be twin sisters, had goals in mind beyond race day. They wanted students to work together to experience a common goal, problem solve and demonstrate good sportsmanship. When asked whether we can expect more collaboration in the future, they said, “stay tuned.”


“We enjoyed collaborating together, which is something we’ve never done in the 20 plus years we’ve been teaching,” said McDonnell.