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From Classroom to Distance Learning: A Kindergarten Research Project
Randi Bowling, Kindergarten Teacher

When we began this long-term project, we anticipated the months of learning and hands-on experiences that would be needed to teach kindergarteners about conducting quality research. We had no idea that a global pandemic would also ask us to shift this project to a distance learning experience, in which this research was finished and then presented from home. This shift from an in-class project to an at-home project created a unique opportunity to showcase the creativity of Stanley Clark kindergarteners (and their families) in ways that our original project design might not have allowed.

What is Research?

In February, both kindergarten classes began a months-long research project, integrated between their work in the classroom and their learning with Mrs. Venis (technology) and Mrs. Squadroni (Media Center). The project began with a visit to Decio Media Center to learn about the idea of research and the research process from Mrs. Squadroni. She read them a book, Me...Jane, and used the story of Jane Goodall to lead the students in an inquiry about research. Students learned that researchers make observations and they ask questions.

Kindergarten students learning about research in the library

Selecting a Topic

Next, students started exploring possible research topics using various research databases. To give them a little direction, we settled on “animals” as our focus. The kids spent a few days selecting areas of interest before finally narrowing their topic to a specific animal.

Kindergarten students considering research topics on iPads

Gathering Resources

One of our goals for this project was for students to explore all the different resources they can use to conduct research. In that spirit, we took our list of chosen topics and went on a field trip to the St. Joseph County Library to look for books. Every student checked out a few books to use for their project. The librarians also talked to our classes about the resources available at the library and how they can conduct research there. The kids then gathered books from our own school collection.

Students gathered with their research books at the library
Kindergarten students borrowing resources from the library
Kindergarten students searching the library for resources

Cross-Divisional Support

This project gave us a neat opportunity to also include other SCS students in the process. Fourth graders, who partner with our kindergarteners as their kinder buddies, also learned about using research databases to find articles and were given the special task of finding an article for their buddy. They learned about identifying the main idea and details of a text and put that learning to the test by highlighting the most important information for their buddies. Fourth graders then visited kindergarten to read the articles to each of their buddies. With a rich selection of resources gathered, the next step in the project was to begin note-taking and collecting information.

4th grade students sharing research with their kindergarten buddy
4th grade students sharing research with their kindergarten buddies

Distance Learning Begins

... and then, the COVID-19 pandemic began and schools were closed. Within a matter of days, we considered new ways to rework this project into a distance learning experience. Though their library books were left in the classroom, we encouraged students to use the tools and resources they had learned about at school to continue their research at home. They gathered information and took notes about their animals, answering writing prompts like “My animal eats…” and “My animal lives…”. Our plan to have individual conferences with the kids moved online. We were able to track their progress and give them feedback as they shared each day’s work with us on Seesaw.

Kindergarten students doing research on their computers at home during distance learning

Students also explored the writing process, editing their writing, and producing a final copy of their written research report.

Kindergarten research project writing samples

Presenting the Research

Originally, we had hopes of having a celebration at school for parents and other SCS students and teachers to come to hear about these animals from our newest experts. We were dreaming of holding a research symposium, where the kids could show off their new knowledge and be acknowledged for their hard work. While we couldn’t make the in-person part of that day happen, thanks to technology, our researchers have still been able to share their work with the SCS community.

The new culminating task of the project was to record a presentation for their classmates and teachers. The videos shared each students’ learning in a creative way (and might be the most joyful thing I’ve seen in weeks!). Students were then asked to watch each other’s presentations and responded to their peers’ work. This was part of the project that we hadn’t thought of before distance learning.

Students doing a peer review

While we would have loved to finish this project as planned, we are so thankful that it provided such a meaningful distance learning experience for our students. Some aspects of the project only happened because of the context of distance learning. For example, the stronger role that families played, the use of technology to comment on each other’s work, and rethinking the finished product ended up being valuable changes that we hope to include in future years. In many ways, this work is even more special now because it was truly a collaborative effort between school and home. I can’t think of a more beautiful example of the resiliency of our Clark community!

The kids are so proud of their work and we are equally as proud of them. You can check out a sample of the finished research presentations here!

About the Author

Randi Bowling

Randi Bowling 

Kindergarten Teacher

  • academics
  • Reggio