Bennett Day School News

Learning through pasta and a progressive approach


The beauty in students and teachers constructing the learning together is that it allows children’s curiosity to guide the investigation and learning. Recently, our class discovered our shared interest in pasta after one of the students built a pasta factory out of building blocks. At first, we brought in different pasta from our homes and expressed what we noticed and what we wondered. That exercise made us very curious to learn about how it is made, what it is made of, and what machines are used to make it.

The process of investigation required first researching about the history of noodles. We learned that noodles are originally from China and were brought to Italy by Marco Polo. We then used our growing observation skills to examine different types of pasta and made notes about their different attributes – color, size, shape and, using various graphic organizers, researched the proper names of the different types.

The next step in our investigation process was, of course, applying the newly acquired knowledge. We got really creative when writing about what types of pasta we would make if we could invent any shape, which helped us practice our writing and punctuation skills. We even drew pictures to help add more details to our writing! Our ideas ranged from shark shaped to jewel shaped. Then the whole class participated in a poll on what kind of pasta we wanted to make, and decided to focus on making bowtie pasta.

In order to make bowtie pasta, we needed to learn how to make the shape by hand. So we did a little hands-on practice with Play-Doh. After lots of practice and perseverance, we became bowtie making experts learning how to apply our fine motor skills to fold and pinch the noodles while using our hand-eye coordination by looking at the pasta.

The final step was to make our own pasta from scratch. We collaborated as a class to pick our roles for the pasta making day. When the day came, we followed a recipe and employed our math skills to carefully measure the amount of each ingredient using measuring cups and began to mix the pasta dough. Once we had our dough it was time to roll it out, cut it and make their bowties (and some ravioli too!)

Two parents with a passion for pasta making also volunteered to help out with the investigation process. One of the parents brought a pasta machine and demonstrated to everyone how noodles are made which was really exciting for the students.

Finally, some of our students practiced their public speaking skills by presenting about their pasta project at the all-school morning meeting. They got to reflect on their investigation process and what they learned, as well as teach everyone else about pasta.  Through the repetition and application of mathematical and literacy skills, our students were able to form a connection from their lives to the material which helped them retain not only the process but the skills needed to complete the project. This is what a progressive classroom looks like.

— Katie Gertler, Senior Kindergarten Lead Teacher

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