Back in January, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sent a letter to children in the Boston Public Schools’ kindergarten program.
“As Bostonians you have the right to share your opinions about our city,” Walsh wrote. “I hear you are learning about structures as part of the construction unit. I have a question for you: What suggestions do you have about constructions in our city to make Boston a fairer and more interesting place for children?”
Walsh advised the children to take their time answering and to consult with each other as well as with their teachers and their parents. “Write your ideas,” the mayor said, and “make a model” of them.
The impressive results – a collection of more than 30 models – will be on display through May 19th in the lobby of City Hall in an exhibit called “Our Boston.” As we blogged last spring, the first “Our Boston” event took place a year ago.
“This is what it looks like when learning comes to life!” Rahn Dorsey said Saturday morning to the crowd of kindergarten children and their parents who had come to City Hall for the “Our Boston” celebration. Dorsey, the city’s chief of education, spoke on behalf of Mayor Walsh.
Indeed, at the heart of Our Boston is an effort to educate children and to engage them in the civic life of the city – work that has been championed by Ben Mardell. A professor of early childhood education at Lesley University, Mardell and his colleagues developed the Boston Public Schools’ curriculum guides. Our Boston is the culminating event for the construction unit.
Thanks to lots of hard work, the models show how cool Boston could be. For example:
There’s a glass hospital that was designed and made by children from the Josiah Quincy School in Chinatown.
The hospital, “keeps people who are already sick from getting more sick due to the dirty bricks. We also feel that if people are sick in the hospital and the walls are clear, they can always see their friends and family, even just for a moment.”
Children from the Samuel Mason in Roxbury designed a shelter for people and pets.
The shelter is for “any person or pet in Boston who does not have a home and needs a warm place to sleep. The shelter will have a hospital, restaurant, hotel, and big backyard.”
“I made the bed and the fish tank,” Garcia Jones said of the work she did with her fellow students to create the shelter.
At the William Trotter School in Roxbury, children designed a park where parents have to watch or play with children.
“We have a ‘no phones or electronics policy’ to allow parents to play with their children. The park includes lockers for parents to lock up their phones, signs displayed with the rules, and large equipment for grownups to fit on.” To make the park more fun, the children added “food places… a dog park, music stage, water park, and racetrack.”
Mardell says it’s exciting to see “Our Boston” become part of the city’s culture. He adds that as teachers use the curriculum, they see more possibilities. One class invited a parent who was an architect in to speak. In another class, the project generated conversations between children and parents at home.
This year, the event also has comment books where the public and city officials can write down their responses to the children’s models.
So stop by City Hall to see more. There’s the East Boston Early Education Center’s more affordable aquarium; the Dr. William W. Henderson Inclusion School’s robot, which helps people who are blind or can’t walk; and the Patrick J. Kenney School’s Superhero City.
It’s a kindergarten-powered festival of what could be done in Our Boston.
Photos: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children