Learning in Motion

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Vroom vroom. Honk. Beep beep. Chugga-chugga-choo-choo. Clackety-clack-clack. Eee ooo eee ooo. Zoom. 

We hear these sounds every day en route. They are incorporated in our everyday lives. As many move through the work day, they play on a constant loop as background noise. 

But do you remember the wonder you once held for what makes cars go? Or why firetrucks are red? Or how airplanes can fly so high in the sky? 

These are normal and (FUN!) topics to explore in early learning through play. To foster their students’ natural curiosity and favorite subject, two teachers at UICS-Metro Center decided to ‘green light’ an interactive and arts-infused transportation study.

With UICS-Metro Center residing in a core transportation hub of the Kansas City metro, the Astronomers classroom expressed interest in learning about the vehicles that pass their school, flash bright lights, and make loud noises. 

Pre-K teachers Danielle’ Calvin and Shunta (Taye) Winston responded enthusiastically by using Creative Curriculum, a research-based educational approach that features exploration and discovery as a way of learning, to design daily lessons and encourage connectivity surrounding transportation. 

“We noticed the children really loved playing with cars. As soon as they’d get in the classroom, they only wanted to play with cars.” Danielle’ explained. 

“In fact, the kids would often fuss over the cars. We decided to do a transportation study to take into account all of their interests.”

Children are stimulated by loud noises and moving objects from an early age. Playing with cars and trucks, mimicking the sounds they make, and racing them across the floors and up the walls all engage sensory learning. Translating these natural observations to creative play offers the children not only an opportunity to play and communicate, it also demonstrates how enjoyable learning can be.

Danielle’ shared, “We studied different modes of land, sky, and sea transportation and made models of the different types of vehicles. Through this process, at least four friends said they loved firetrucks.” 

One of those friends was a new student who recently joined UICS. For Ramone, this is his first time in a school setting, and he comes from a Spanish-speaking household. Danielle’ expressed how he’s been scared and cautious to fully engage with the other students and in all of the classroom activities until firetrucks became a project focus. 

“He wouldn’t speak in Spanish or English, really. It wasn’t until we started focusing on fire trucks that he’s started to talk. He actually said ‘fire truck’ in Spanish and has been more excited to come to the classroom. This is the first time he’s been interactive and engaged.”

Danielle’ added Ramone actually came to school in his favorite fireman costume. His mother is overjoyed to see how much more comfortable her child is because of this project. 

“We also have students with different cognitive delays that are loving this project. It is important we meet every student where they are and meet their individual needs.” Danielle offered. Danielle’ and Taye also invited UICS staff as classroom guests to read short stories about different emergency vehicles and how they help our community stay safe and help those requiring emergency aid. 

Oh, and they built a fire truck…..! 

With UICS’ heavy focus on the arts and creativity, Danielle, Taye, and UICS-Metro Center Director of Early Learning and Inclusion Roberto Diaz evoked the spirit of innovation and useful skill of resourcefulness for this project. They transformed a donated taxi play car display into a bright red fire truck with all the bells and whistles. Or in this case, flashing lights and working sirens! 


“Once Roberto told us we could build the firetruck, the project took a life of its own! He really made it happen.” said Danielle’. 

“If we can dream it, he helps us achieve it”. 

Additional UICS employees also stepped in, beyond their typical work day, to help bring this interactive project to fruition by finishing painting the firetruck after hours, building a working steering wheel, and adding emergency lights and a siren. 

“Sometimes you don’t always have the resources to do what you want. There was a unity in all of us coming together to support the students with this project. Everyone worked efficiently, which helped keep the children engaged with the new updates the firetruck received each day.” Danielle’ offered.

Taye and Danielle’ now have a “drivable” fire truck in their classroom and plan to share this fun project with other classrooms. To mitigate any additional exposure and ensure safety recommendations, they plan to take their class to present a mini-play about firetrucks and firemen/firewomen, using what they’ve learned, to all of the other classrooms safely outside the door. 

Of note: a special instructor will help to culminate this transportation study. She connected with the Kansas City Fire Department to arrange a visit and learning opportunity from a fireman. (Stay tuned for those details! We will post an update to this story as more develops.)

UICS is committed to ensuring the highest quality learning opportunities. Learning is more fun when it surrounds topics we love! UICS teaching staff truly explores education in new ways to foster a love for learning for ALL students. 

 Our individualized and inventive projects help children become enthusiastic, independent and inquisitive learners. At UICS, children develop healthy habits and attitudes, a positive sense of self, and a connectedness to people who support and encourage them in the classroom and in life. 

We are grateful for the opportunity to allow our little learners to think BIG at UICS!