Preschoolers get hands-on experience while learning about building, architecture | Trisha Miller

I have not yet experienced the “Museum” event at New Morning School, but I have been using a project-based approach with 3- to 5-year-olds for many years, so I can speak to that.  So far in the Preschool, we have been approaching it much like any long-term project or study I have done before.

There are many benefits to the students, families, teachers, and learning community when project-based learning is undertaken. The most significant in my mind is connection.  Of course, connection between learning skills and subjects.  But especially, connection between the students and their learning community, when the projects are collaborative and cooperative as we make them at the preschool level. This type of connection is most important for young children as they are in the beginning stages of forming their social-emotional skills that are the basis for learning.

The preschool teachers thought about the children and what they have been interested in together so far this school year. Then, we decided together what topic we felt that all of the preschool students would enjoy and have some level of participation in.  We decided to study Building and Buildings.

We have been reading books about building and construction, looking at photos of buildings, and experiencing our own building styles using various materials. Some of the materials have been traditional preschool staples such as wood blocks, duplos, foam blocks, and log builders.  We have also used various toy building sets.  In addition, we have had many creative building projects with things like sugar cubes, toothpicks and marshmallows, and craft sticks.  

Recycled items used for building

We always have many recycled/scrap materials on hand in preschool for the children to construct and create with.  For our Building Project, we asked the families to bring in recycled materials from their 

homes to supplement what we already had so we could build many things for the Museum. The children have been designing and constructing many scrap material buildings.  We will lay these buildings out in a city-like format with some paper streets for Museum.  The students together with the teachers and aides have also been working on a large castle model, and a skyscraper model. They have been working hard, playing, and finding much pleasure and pride in this project!

We also asked the families for photos of their homes for the children to refer to for an artistic rendering. The children have been sitting down for a dedicated project time each day this past week to draw and make a watercolor resist painting of their own homes.

We had a builder, Mike Miller, come in to the school to speak about his craft and career to the students. This project  culminated with a field trip to Detroit on a bus to visit Chrysler House, the People Mover, and One Campus Martius. The field trip was coordinated and sponsored for us by Paul Glomski, father of preschool student Henry Glomski and CEO of Detroit Labs. The families, students, and staff were very excited about this!

The preschool teachers, Marisa and myself, will come into work the day before Museum to set up the classrooms as a Building Museum. The whole process has been full of energy and creativity, and it will be thrilling for the children and families to view the results.

  • Trisha Miller is a preschool teacher with New Morning School, Plymouth. She can be reached by email at