September 22, 2010
All text and photos by Jen Cowart
The pre-kindergarten students at Learning Brooke Early Childhood Education Center had a special guest in their classroom on Monday morning. Stemming from a series of conversations between the teachers and their students this past summer about ways in which to help the community, Mayor Allan Fung was invited into the classroom so that the students could learn more about what his job entails.
When the mayor arrived, he was first taken on a tour of the building, which services children from 18 months through kindergarten. At the end of the tour, he was welcomed into the pre-kindergarten classroom, where the students were waiting in anticipation of his visit.
The children had worked cooperatively to create a book for Mayor Fung that showed their ideas about what responsibilities he might have as the mayor of Cranston.
“We’re very interested in learning more about the broader community,” said owner Brooke Brown. “They’re very interested in studying local architecture and learning about our community’s dignitaries. The first step in doing that was to invite the mayor to come.”
The school prides itself on its emergent curriculum in which the teacher’s role is one of co-learner. They guide the students’ learning through a series of conversations and questions that help to bring about the next topic of study.
“That is why this summer, as the children began to discuss ways to help the community, the teachers listened. They took notes as children discussed ideas and then read those notes back to the children proposing that we choose some of those ideas to make it a reality to help others,” explained Brown.
Fung read aloud from the book that the students had made, stopping to recognize each child when their page was read, and to comment on their guesses about his job responsibilities.
When one student hypothesized that Mayor Fung might live at his work, he joked that sometimes it feels that way. Another student guessed that Mayor Fung probably smiled a lot in his job.
“I do smile a lot. I try to be happy all the time,” Mayor Fung told the children, as he smiled.
Many of the students’ guesses were not far off from reality. They discussed the fire and police forces, the city workers, schools, grounds and maintenance with the mayor. They were fascinated by the topic of paperwork and the amount of paperwork he must have as the mayor. They asked questions about the people he works with on a day-to-day basis.
“I have a lot of helpers in my job,” said Mayor Fung. “In my office alone, I have six helpers. I also have 200 firefighters, 150 police officers, more than 600 city workers and more than 1,000 school teachers in the city.”
In addition to learning about Fung’s job, the children wanted him to see the results of a food drive they had sponsored over the past two months as part of the community service project that they developed.
The children have been collecting and sorting the food, which will be donated to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.
“It means a lot to me that you did that, it will help a lot of people and it will help me help others,” the mayor said.
Brown said that the students’ exploration of their community is far from over.
“Naturally the children are not finished and continue to be interested in other aspects of the community. We are not sure where our inquiries will lead us next, but this is an exciting start,” she said.