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Kindergarten: Empathy on Display During Tinker Time

As the 2020-2021 school year began, Innovation Specialist Elizabeth Leddy knew that Kindergarten Tinker Time was going to have to look different than in past years due to the pandemic.

“A large part of the Tinker Time experience is actually being in the Gates Lab to see student projects, tools and laser printers,” said Mrs. Leddy. 
“This year, we had to be creative because Tinker Time needed to be taught in kindergarten classrooms. It required us to completely redesign the Tinker Time curriculum and our approach to practicing Graland’s Innovation Skills.”

The foundation of the Tinker Time curriculum is Graland’s Innovation Skills, which include empathy, creative thinking, critical thinking, grit/perseverance, experimentation and collaboration. “When I started planning for Tinker Time this year, I decided to use picture books with various characters and problems, which allowed students to think creatively about how they might solve a problem for one of the characters.” 

One example of students designing with empathy in mind was from a lesson based on the book Little Red Gliding Hood (think Little Red Riding Hood on skates). After reading the story, Mrs. Leddy asked students to design something to help one of the characters in the story, as they have been doing throughout the year. Students used critical thinking to identify the problem, and used creative thinking and empathy to make a plan for what they would design to help the character. Next, students used their individual Tinker Time materials (Legos, blocks and dominoes) to build their plan.
Some students chose to help Little Red, who had old skates that were falling apart. Kindergartners designed a robot to help her skate, innovated special laces that wouldn’t come untied, and created magical skates to help her skate faster. Others chose the character Humpty Dumpty and designed cushions or trampolines to help protect him when he fell off the wall. 
“At the beginning of the year, I didn’t plan on jumping into empathy right away,” said Mrs. Leddy. “However, I learned that using stories to facilitate creative thinking, rooted in empathy, allowed students to push themselves creatively and persevere in their designs. I have been so amazed by the students as they identify problems and think in innovative ways to help others.”

“I look forward to eventually getting these Tinker Time students into the Gates Lab to continue to design with empathy!” she said.

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.