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Making Dreams Come True in JK

Making Dreams Come True in JK

When you ask children what they’d like to learn about most in the world, their answers might surprise you.  

Junior kindergarten teachers at USM begin every year by asking each student a very important question: What is your biggest hope or dream to learn about in junior kindergarten? The answers vary. Animals are popular—especially butterflies and dogs. Other requests from this year included robots, reptiles, outer space, pizza makers, and garbage collectors.

When the teachers need help with a particular subject, they enlist help from the community. Judy Clegg, USM’s Preschool and Lower School librarian, is quick to supply books and other resources. When the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center visited USM’s Preschool in March, Emily Vertacnik ’07 ensured that they brought their peregrine falcon after one young friend specified it as being his dream. Members of the Upper School’s FIRST Robotics team visited another class to talk about robots and teach students how to code.

Sometimes, teachers enlist help from the greater Milwaukee community. When one student’s dream was to learn about garbage collectors, representatives from Waste Management visited campus with two trash-collecting trucks. Students learned about garbage and recycling, how the trucks work, and even had the chance to sit inside the trucks. When another student wanted to learn about reptiles, teachers invited Tatiana’s Tiny Zoo to visit their classrooms. Sudents were thrilled to touch snakes, a gecko, and a box turtle.

“Through our hopes and dreams program, the students really take ownership of their learning,” said Harriette Engel ’14, junior kindergarten teacher. “They tell us what they want to learn about and, as a result, the whole class is exposed to a topic they might not otherwise know or care about. It makes the learning really meaningful, and students get so excited when it’s time to for their hope or dream. Their voices are being heard.”

  • On Campus
A JK student sits in the cab of a garbage truck while wearing a hard hat.

Aidan Timm ’36 was one of many students to sit in a real-life garbage truck.

A JK student learns to make a pizza.

Jordyn Schmidt ’36 learned how to make her own pizza.

A group of JK students pet Xander, a canine good citizen dog.

Junior kindergarten students with Xander, USM’s certified therapy dog.

A JK student learns about robots from an Upper School student.

Will McLean ’35 (left) and Alex Ptak ’22 (pictured last school year) examined the FIRST Robotics robot.