A Field Guide by Kindergarten Students in Portland, OR

Oregon Episcopal School Kindergarten Field Guide

This spectacular field guide by five and six year old children is a vital, thrilling demonstration of student voices in action designing and creating real work that contributes knowledge, innovation and insight to the local and global community.  These students are leading by example.  Here is how it happened.

Last February, Louise led a day-long workshop at Opal School of the Portland Children's Museum in Portland, Oregon.  The workshop focused on curriculum design and featured students' exemplary work.  During the workshop, Louise worked with Kirstin McAuley, a kindergarten teacher at Oregon Episcopal School, (OES).  Kirstin was inspired to work on a book with her students that would capture their imagination and inspire their best work in research, writing and illustration for the purpose of creating a field guide for their community. OESKgGroupPhotoOES Kindergarten Guidebook Team

Kirstin writes, I left the workshop with Louise Cadwell with the question, "What does meaningful, quality work look like for kindergartners?" foremost in my mind.  After this question, others followed: "How could my students and I create a dialogue with other members of the school community?" and "How might my students practice authentic research based on first-hand observations?" 

My answers and my students' answers to these questions came in the form of an exploration of our campus.  The children identified their favorite spaces on our campus...an overgrown labyrinth and the campus woods and wetlands.  They visited and revisited these spaces, getting to know them over time and through seasons.  They interviewed campus experts to understand the history of the spaces.  They drew, painted and sculpted what they saw, collected natural materials and examined their findings.

As they explored more deeply, the children created a mural in the classroom that served as a record of all they had wondered and learned about the flora and fauna of campus.  From this beginning came the idea of an alphabetic collection of their learning in the form of illustrated poetry and nonfiction writing.


Their hope for the book is that it will help other students and campus visitors to notice what they might not otherwise notice. 

We invited parents, grandparents and staff to help restore the outdoor labyrinth.  Together, we created a tiled bench to put nearby, celebrating and sharing all that the children loved about that space.  The students moved from studying our common areas to caring for them.  In so many ways, their work was important to them, to their families and to their teachers.  In the end, their work became important to the greater community and manifested itself in forms that are beautiful and long lasting.

OESExploreCover To order Explore OES, designed and published at blurb.com, please visit their website.