P.H. Miller Elementary School, a diverse Pre-K through 1st grade school in Plano, IL, is making big changes. The school’s principal, Laurel Mateyka, has engaged the teachers in reflective practice. They are looking at how their philosophy shapes the school environment and how those spaces impact children’s learning. To kick off this journey, they decided to incorporate more open-ended materials (enter, Kodo Kids) into their classrooms and build a STEM lab in a portion of their library.

Kodo’s education department had the privilege of working with the Pre-K teachers earlier this month. We were inspired by the teachers’ enthusiastic thirst for new knowledge and concepts. They were seeking the “why” behind the value of incorporating the Kodo materials they had purchased into their classrooms. Through our 4 days of professional development, we discussed the importance of STEM, incorporating quality materials, and supporting engineering play behaviors.

Hands On Learning – For Teachers, Too!

Just like children, the best way for adults to learn something new is through hands-on experience. Kodo’s professional development incorporates plenty of opportunities for teachers to become familiar with the products and materials they are bringing into their classrooms. This enables the teachers to be comfortable observing the learning that takes place, while being an active facilitator in the child’s experience. We supported teachers in practicing open-ended questioning and understanding when and why to let a child work through a challenge.

Rethinking Learning Environments

Part of our time with the teachers was spent talking through each of their classrooms and talking about how to redesign the space to facilitate investigation and curiosity. We discussed color theory, layout, and the quality and quantity of materials. We were impressed with how supportive and engaged the teachers were while we walked through each space. They were always making suggestions or offers to help with the changes that were discussed.

By the end of our week in Plano, the teachers had an strong understanding of what engineering play looks like and how to support that in their classrooms. They also had a framework for how to go about designing their learning spaces to facilitate this STEM learning.

Change at such a large scale can be overwhelming and challenging. The teachers at P.H. Miller stayed positive and engaged throughout the time we spent with them and we have no doubt that their motivation will carry on over the next months and years. We are so inspired by the challenge they have taken on and are looking forward to continuing to support them in their journey!

Jordan Kaseeska is the Education Specialist at Kodo Kids. She received her undergraduate degree from Colombia College Chicago in Early Childhood Education and went on to earn her masters degree from University of Colorado- at Denver in Education and Human Development with a focus in Early Literacy. She has used her passion for constructionist style teaching in public and private early childhood and elementary classrooms.