Teacher Feature: Kindergarten Explores Star Wars

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Cathryn Prudencio and Silvana Oderisi in the Kindergarten classroom. Their classroom was finishing up a three month exploration of Star Wars. When Cathryn and Silvana were trying to decide what to study they observed that their children were already getting excited about the release of the new Star Wars movie. They decided that they could use this theme and still easily achieve the curriculum requirements.  Our executive director, Kim Kiehl, documented how they did this throughout their unit in her blog post, What Happened to Kindergarten?

I joined their class near the end of their Star Wars unit. During this lesson they are exploring merchandise. Below you will find a reflection and lesson images from Cathryn and Silvana.
Kinder Cover


What were your topics of exploration? Why did you choose them? Where did they come from?

Our topic of exploration was Star Wars and merchandising.  We choose this topic based off of the students strong desire to learn more about Star Wars and the new movie: The Force Awakens.  We chose this concept to explore because we had been studying Star Wars for a couple months- the characters, the setting, and various other story elements. We decided that exploring merchandising would be a great way to wrap up our unit by making personal connections to what they see outside of school since a lot of our children had been seeing Star Wars merchandise at stores, and wearing it to school (especially with our lesson being two days before the movie was released in theaters).

Why and how did you choose the visit?

We chose to visit the National Museum of American History because their gift shop had a C-3PO on view along with other Star Wars related merchandise.  We had been talking about different types of merchandise, and we felt that this was a good representation of just that. They had everything from books to clothing and even our beloved LEGOS! At this point in our study, most of our friends had at least one Lego set and various types of clothing that was Star Wars related.

We made a museum circle outside of the gift shop to discuss the idea of merchandise, then went on a mission to find as much Star Wars merchandise as we could as we walked through the gift shop.

What were your learning objectives? (What did you want your children to take away from the lesson?)

We really wanted the children to be able to make their own personal connections between our Star Wars unit, what we had been discussed on our museum visits (the story elements of Star Wars), and what they see around.

We also hoped that the children would be able to make the connection that when they were buying or expressing interest in objects from Star Wars that they were supporting a franchise and becoming fans at the same time. We talked about where you could find related things at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target and Kohl’s to name a few. We hoped they would realize just how big the market is. The fact they could even go to a museum and find Star Wars things was really cool.

What was most successful about your lesson? How did the lesson reach your objectives to expand the topic? What was successful in terms of your preparation and logistics?

The most successful part of the lesson was the accessibility to see so many different types of merchandise at the gift shop (clothing, Legos, toys, books, costumes, pajamas, etc.) because that really helped drive home that anything having to do with Star Wars that can be bought or sold is in fact “merchandise.” Our children were able to use the word “merchandise” in the correct context, and identify different types of merchandise they had at home, or had seen in a store.   Another successful aspect of our lesson was how the children were able to connect not only to what they were learning, but also to each other. They were having conversations about the things that they owned together aka Lego sets and shirts and what they wished to buy or even get as a present for the holidays.

In terms of preparation and logistics, it certainly helped that Star Wars was so popular at the time because it provided us with access to such a diverse array of merchandise examples. The timing of the movie release also helped to make the children that much more invested and interested in learning about Legos and other objects within Star Wars.  When we decided to wrap up our unit, merchandise was the way to go. It was nice to see that American History not only had C3-PO on display, but the gift shop had a wide variety of objects to sell. It was also convenient that the space outside the gift shop on the main floor was large enough and out of the way of other visitors, which allowed for an uninterrupted museum visit.

What could you have done differently to better achieve your objectives and expand the topic?  What was challenging regarding logistics?  What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

One thing we could have done differently would be to include an activity for the children to show what they learned from the lesson.  For example, creating their own piece of merchandise out of art supplies and then displaying what they created in the classroom. We used their verbal input as proof of their learning, but a physical piece of work would have been much more concrete (and fun, too!).  We also could have had the children bring in something that they owned that was Star Wars related, so they could think about where they might have gotten it and compare to someone else.

One aspect of the lesson that could have been challenging is the availability to Star Wars merchandise. Luckily for us, the American History gift shop was decked out because of the release of the movie, but now that the movie has been out in theaters for a while it might be harder to find merchandise.

For teachers trying out this lesson we recommend making sure not to spend too much time in the gift shop because our friends’ hands love to touch, and since they loved Star Wars so much the excitement was palpable!  We also would recommend that the lesson be age appropriate. We used the big word “merchandising” and we felt that our students had a good grasp on the word, but then again we had been talking about it all week. We would recommend talking about what Star Wars is all about before tackling this lesson, that way the children could make a better connection.  We would also recommend having an object or two to be able to show the children what you mean or what defines merchandising.

their unit on Star Wars:DSCN4440The group went straight to the National  Museum of American History museum to visit the Star Wars display at the gift shop.DSCN4461Silvana began the lesson by defining the term Merchandise. She had purchased a magazine that included examples of Star War merchandise to show the children the variety of items created based on the film. DSCN4488Silvana then asked the children to list some of the places where they have seen Star Wars merchandise and also what types of products are available.  DSCN4492Then it was time to head inside to see all of the different products. DSCN4501Lastly, Cathryn focused on a specific product, Legos. She explained that Lego had to get specific permission to create products based on the movies. Cathryn asked the group if they had Legos at home as a way to show the range of merchandise Lego creates.

Cathryn and Silvana finished up their unit on Star Wars and started exploring music. Check out our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more ideas from their unit on Star Wars, specifically Kim Kiehl’s post What Happened to Kindergarten? See you in two weeks with our next Teacher Feature!