A Community Unit Designed by Grade 1/2 Students

A Bus Driver’s (or Head of School’s) Perspective

In a small school like ours it is not an uncommon experience for the head of school to be recruited to drive one of our school buses for classroom field trips. I love this. It is so wonderful to be a part of expanding our student experiences beyond the walls of the school. While community building within the school community is of great importance to our school culture, we also strive to give students opportunities to make connections with the greater community of our beautiful Twin Cities.

This year I have witnessed this exploration of community by driving the bus on the field trips that support the Prairie and Forest classrooms’ community unit. First and second graders exploring how communities work at such depth is truly astonishing. 

Committees Brainstorm Possible Field Trips
First our grade 1/2 students divided themselves into committees for health and safety, transportation, stores and services, learning and education, entertainment, government and building, and the environment. Then each committee began brainstorming community resources that fell into their committee’s area of study and planned a visit to these spaces. While all grade 1/2 students participate in each field trip to reflect and learn, committee members are tasked with studying their respective committee areas in greater detail.

These researchers have been to Hmong Town Market so the students, especially the stores and services committee members, could study this unique community asset. The work of the government and building committee members lead to a tour of the state capitol building. Some time in the woods at North Mississippi Regional Park was the result of the brainstorming of the environmental committee. 

Still to come are a visit to a local fire station inspired by the health and safety committee and a tour of Allianz Field, the home of the Minnesota Loons, to allow the entertainment committee to conduct research.

Learning About How Interconnected We Are
All of these visits, and many more classroom discussions, will culminate in the creation of a physical model community designed by the students and informed by their study of the community around them. The magic of this unit of study is that it both opens up and expands our students’ understanding of all that a community entails, while simultaneously providing the students a sense of how interconnected and interdependent a community truly is, and must be. 

It has been an honor to be their driver as they undertake this work. The deft guidance of their teachers and their teaching assistants as the students explore has been a privilege to witness, as well. 

With each experience, yes, the wheels of the bus do go round and round, but the real joy is watching the students’ new ideas and thoughts go round and round as they climb back on the bus after each of these learning opportunities.

This is real-world learning, in the real world, and I am so happy to be a part of it.


Joe – Driver of Community Researchers

The Student’s 3D Community Model


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