As preschoolers learn about the communities that surround them, their neighborhood becomes a much broader setting. Suddenly, they begin to think about it as a place where they live as a member. A place where they can make a difference.
My Preschool Buddies and Me: We’re Part of a Community!
At the preschool level, children are rapidly developing social skills and quickly learning that the people around them in their neighborhood, from the butcher to the baker, and, yes, even the candlestick maker, may have some importance in their lives. This understanding is what we all refer to as a “sense of community.” Therefore, teaching kids about communities and community helpers, those invaluable people in your neighborhood, will help them expand their social repertoire and better understand where they live, how everyone interconnects, and what’s going on around them.
Part One: What is a “Community?”
If the thought of teaching your classroom about the broad concept of communities seems quite the daunting task, don’t fret! Why not start with these activities?
1) Start at Home with Family
Start out simple. When it comes to the idea of a community, what “group of people” could kids draw from and associate with right off the bat? It’s their family. You can examine how each member of their family is similar, yet, still different. Dad might love steak while Mom doesn’t eat meat. Big Sister loves soccer while Little Brother hates it.
2) Expand on the Idea of Community
Now, move further out to another level of community that children can easily visualize: their block or neighborhood. You can have the kids make a list of services that link their neighborhood community together. This list could include libraries, community pools, local schools, and places of worship.
3) Have the Kids Design a Map
Take the class on a walk around the school block. Have them bring along papers or notebooks to draw out what they see. Once you’re all back inside, draw out a map using a large poster board and crayons. Hang it up in the classroom and slowly add to it with every walk your class enjoys.
4) We Are All Part of a Greater Whole
Remind your preschoolers that their neighborhood community is not the only one out there. Bringing in various maps, world atlases and taking out library books on different cultures are some of the ways you can help little minds to broaden their perspective of communities.
Part Two: What is a “Community Helper?”
Who are the people who make your neighborhood a better place? What occupations exist within a community that makes neighborhood households run a bit more smoothly? The police keep our communities safe, teachers help students learn, nurses and doctors help people stay healthy, postal workers deliver mail and parcels- it is these professions that directly impact our neighborhood. These invaluable individuals are known as community helpers.
Try these fun activities with your classroom to better convey the importance of community helpers!
1) Ask Community Helpers for an Interview or Presentation
Ask a community helper, such as a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, or postal worker, to come in for a visit. Before they arrive, have the kids come up with a list of questions to ask. Questions like: What does that helper do? What does their usual day entail? What training did they undergo for their position?
2) Let’s Play a Game: Community Charades
Write the names of different community helpers, such as veterinarian, firefighter, paramedic, police officer, dentist, doctor, butcher, sanitation and recycling worker, mayor, and letter carrier, on some index cards. Glue on some pictures to illustrate the helpers so as to help emerging readers understand the cards. Shuffle them up, place them into a box, and have the children take turns to pull a card out, and then have them act out the community helper they selected. Their classmates will have fun guessing who is on the card! Afterward, spend some time discussing what that helper does and why their job is meaningful in the community.
3) Raise Community Awareness Through Volunteer Work
Why not have the class do some (easy) community work? You can have the kids join in a neighborhood spring cleanup or help to raise awareness for an important local issue (like school funding). Another option could be to organize a fundraiser, such as a bake sale or weekend schoolyard sale, and donate the profits to a local charity or organization.