Pre-Schoolers Visit Secondary Road Department

Story courtesy of Dan Voigt Emmetsburg News

Project Approach Brings Students Out Into Community


In a time when talk about education revolves around topics such as the Iowa Core and Minimum Standards, a new concept in education is providing our youngest students with a new way to learn about their world. But what makes this even more exciting is that these students are learning a lot more at the same time.

The new method goes by the name of “Project Approach” which describes a new melding of teaching and learning styles for younger students. Sherry Bredehoeft is the teacher of the four-year-old pre school class at Emmetsburg Catholic School, and implementing the program has provided new and exciting opportunities for her young charges.

“Project Approach came about when several Nature Centers all got together and wrote a federal grant for what they call the Young Investigators program,”?Bredehoeft explained. “Through the program, learning opportunities are designed to be very hands-on and interactive for the students. They actually decide what subject it is that they want to explore and then we do just that. We’ve been studying snow, and one student wondered what happened to snow when it would get loaded into a dump truck – snow removal.”

Through the study of snow in the classroom, the pre-schoolers had chances to see what happened when snow would melt or freeze, but one thing they’ve been cheated on so far is building a snowman.

“I have a little snowman kit hanging here in the classroom,”?Bredehoeft said, displaying a carrot nose, corncob pipe, and a black hat and scarf for the creation to wear. “Now, if it would just snow!”

Irregardless, the question about snow removal got Bredehoeft thinking. She made contact with Pat Corley, Foreman of the Emmetsburg Secondary Road Department shed, and went out to visit the facility to talk to Corley.

“I went out there and was just floored by the equipment and how interested Pat and the workers were in doing something. So, I took some pictures of some of the equipment when I?was there and brought those back to the classroom.”

The reason for taking the pictures was simple.

“It’s called Teacher Provocation – with the photos of those machines, it sparked their interests and made them want to learn more about how those machines removed snow,” Bredehoeft explained.

In preparation for the class visit to the County Shed, the students came up with a list of questions about snow removal, The questions were varied: “How does the snowblower move without wheels?” “How did you learn to drive a snowplow?” “Do you sometimes knock over things like mailboxes? What do you do if that happens?”

Those questions, among others, were answered Thursday morning when the 16 members of the pre-school traveled to the County Shed. All of the Secondary Road Department employees based in Emmetsburg were on hand to greet the visitors, with Pat Corley and Larry Joyce welcoming the group.

The student’s questions were answered through their visit, with the various county workers providing the answers – “Very carefully!” was the response on how one learns to drive a snowplow.

An acknowledgement that once in awhile, a plow will knock a mailbox down, was followed with an explanation by Corley. “If we do, we go out and put it back up for you.”

Corely led the group to the large snowblower mounted on a front-end loader, answering the question of how it moved without wheels. When the question of how it started and stopped was asked, Corley pulled the remote control for the unit from a pocket and started the machine, drawing squeals of delight from the children.”

In the course of their visit, the students were able to climb inside the large front-end loader, watched a motor grader start and saw how the blade and wing blade operate, and then were able to climb into the grader’s cab. The wing blade and snow plow on a tandem dump truck were demonstrated, and the students got to sit behind the wheel of the big truck and honk the horn.

The students also saw the sign truck and ventured into the mechanic’s shop, where Pat Madsen demonstrated the large hoist by lifting a dump truck as the class watched.

But after seeing the various pieces of equipment, each student was given a clipboard to draw a piece of equipment they’d seen – all part of the educational aspect of the trip.

“Drawing is the way four and five-year olds write,” Bredehoeft explained. “They use shapes, draw in perspective and they will eventually use these drawings to help them build a model of the snowblower they saw at the shed, out of cardboard boxes back in our classroom. It’s all about developing problem solving skills – they have to figure out their drawings to build their model, and it also teaches them perseverance, too.”

According to Bredehoeft, the concept behind Project Approach is to get kids out of the classroom and into their communities, where they can learn from their environment.

“Studies have shown that nature studies are an excellen learning tool for students might be autistic or hyperactive,”?Bredehoeft explained. “There’s something about getting them out and they become much more enganged because it makes them think.”

The program has been a three-year process, according to Bredehoeft, who noted that it has been funded through the Voluntary State Pre School Program, in colloboration with Head Start and the Emmetsburg Community School District.

So what did the students think of their visit?

“I liked the snow blower. It was loud!”

“I liked the yellow truck I?got to sit in. The guy honked the horn!”

“I liked the snow blower because I know my dad would love to have one just like that!”

“I liked the thing that made the truck go up.”

Needless to say, the students were impressed, and surprised with the cookies and juice boxes the Secondary Road workers provided to the youngsters before they left.

“The men at the shed were so accomodating and so welcoming to the students,”? Bredehoeft said. “They kept the answers very simple for the students, went out of their way to make sure the students got to see things and how they worked. Their hospitality was incredible!”