“Hurry! We have to catch our flight to Japan!”,  shouted a group of 11 Kindergarteners from Grace Preschool as they ran back to the school building after a class walk around the Homeland neighborhood of Baltimore. Passports in hand, the Kindergarteners each chose a seat on the classroom “plane” and got ready for the adventure at hand. They traveled to Japan as part of their “Travel the Globe” series, created by Kindergarten teachers at Grace. Each child had their “passport” stamped as they imagined entry into the country, and wide-eyed and excitedly, they began their unit about Japan.

At a time in history where much of the world is standing still, and travel and experiences with new cultures is minimal, teacher Heather Athey realized the importance of keeping little ones engaged with unfamiliar cultures, and identifying similarities with others. “My goal is to plant the seeds, so that when they grow up, they will have a passion for getting to know and develop friendships with people from all different backgrounds. The world would be a very boring place to live, if we were all exactly the same!”

Through their “travels”, students learned to eat with chopsticks, used watercolors to recreate traditional Kanji characters, set up their own Japanese tea ceremony, and were even invited to try on child-sized kimonos. Stories, video clips, and class discussions helped to give background information on each activity, and each experience was thoughtfully and intentionally planned with young learners in mind. 

“It’s so much fun to immerse ourselves in another culture and see what the similarities and differences are with children from around the world,” explained Heather. “We are a part of a global community, and I want my students to be aware of that, and to show kindness to everyone that they encounter.”

Each afternoon, during the unit about Japan, phrases such as, “Hey! My family likes to eat with chopsticks sometimes, too!” and “I never knew that people in Japan spoke a different language!” could be heard throughout the classroom. Watching students connect with other cultures is both exciting and heart-warming for teachers, and witnessing the “a-ha!” moments is worth all of the time and planning. Even at home, the learning continues because of Heather’s enthusiasm. Gwen’s mom reports that the first day that Mrs. Athey introduced the Japan unit, Gwen came home thrilled to practice eating with chopsticks and sitting on the floor just like they do in the Japanese culture. Mrs. Athey has a natural way of making learning so much fun – Gwen comes home each day and plays school!

Heather mentioned that her class plans to travel to India, and possibly Italy and Greece over the coming weeks- passports in hand, full of enthusiasm and ready to go!

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One reply on “Traveling the Globe in Kindergarten at Grace Preschool”

  1. So adorable and a neat and wonderful (not to mention creative) concept! Kids have it hard during these challenging times and this is such an original fun idea! Kudos to the school for putting this together!!

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