Written by Julie Wu, Stephanie Lo, Jennifer Chien
Translated by Mark Wan
Edited by Diana Chang, Adriana DiBenedetto
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fast-growing youngsters at Tzu Chi USA’s Great Love Preschool in Walnut, California, couldn’t freely explore and learn about their neighborhoods as they once might have. Therefore, teachers endeavored to think outside the box — or perhaps inside the box — by designing a fun and educational project for the children. Collecting recyclable cardboard boxes of assorted sizes, they designed each of them together to resemble various vehicles large enough for the children to wear and cruise around in. Previously, teachers and students alike had made their very own city to give thanks for everyone’s hard work, and the students used this city of Great Love as part of their lesson.
Exploring an Environmentally Friendly City
Preschool is an important time in a child’s life, as much of the experiences encountered can serve as a foundation for later. For example, skills may include picking up after oneself and fostering greater societal awareness, and teachers at Tzu Chi’s Great Love Preschool are committed to cultivating a humanistic society.
The focus of one lesson utilized the “Environmentally Friendly City” they created previously to explore various means of transportation. Calette Sinae Garcia, an English teacher at Great Love Preschool, diligently created various cardboard box cars to illustrate these different means of transportation, such as a firefighter truck, ambulance, and train.
“Tzu Chi’s teaching theme of the month was transportation,” Ms. Calette explained, holding up a cardboard box. “For which purpose, I constructed a lot of cardboard vehicles to thematically echo with the Great Love Environmental Friendly City that had been built previously. When kids go to the outdoor playground wearing cardboard box cars, then they will be able to run around, ‘driving’ imitation cars in the imitation city.”
Ms. Calette then picked up another cardboard box car that was just about complete and said, “It only needs wheels, and another one still remains to be painted. Small cars are for one toddler, but it takes two to play with a train, which opens up an opportunity for kids to learn how to be a team,” she said with a smile. What also needed to be constructed were the insignia for vehicles that would be around hospitals, police stations, fire stations, and airports.
The Duty and Courage of Community Services Personnel
Ms. Calette also explained how to wear protective clothing to prevent paint stains, and showed students how to paint the different vehicles. The students cherished the opportunity to paint with vibrant colors and get creative, and were eager to put their finished masterpieces to use outdoors.
When all the completed cardboard vehicles were ready, the children rushed excitedly to select their respective vehicles.
Another teacher at Great Love Preschool, Miaoling Ma, said, “Following the community introduction conducted previously, we decided that this month’s theme would be means of transportation. Ms. Garcia added a lot of new elements, using environmentally friendly materials for making vehicles. Both toddlers and adults are happy.”
Learning through the pretend community, kids got to familiarize themselves with the functional differences among various community services and learned about different professions. These included firefighters, police officers, mail carriers, and medical personnel.
At the Tzu Chi Education Campus in California, teachers often introduce different aspects of environmental protection into their lessons. By utilizing these recyclable materials in a lively and instructive way, thus giving them a new life, the lesson also promotes the concept of cherishing all things in this world and giving thanks for all that sustains us.