Sarah Adams-Kollitz and Andrew Rowan
The Help Desk project started one day in October when D (a preschooler) was so excited he threw his stuffed dog, 20, over the playground fence. ‘20’ is a very important security object for D and all the students help keep track of him. He was so upset he started running around the playground yelling “20!” His friends were also very worried. The preschoolers and their teachers huddled up and tried to make a plan. The first plan of going together to get ‘20’ was rejected. Several other ideas including a gecko and a robot were reviewed. After seeing a car almost drive over ‘20’, the group agreed to go together into the neighboring parking lot to retrieve him. It was the first time this group of seven preschoolers worked together to solve a problem. They realized they were good at helping people.
The classroom had a dramatic play ice cream stand that was being phased out, so the idea of a help desk was suggested. The students helped clean the ice cream stand and set up a new office. Parents contributed calculator machines, hole punches, pens, old cell phones, keyboards, and junk mail. Forms were distributed to families and other classrooms for anyone who wanted to request help. Hours of operation and a “Help Desk” sign were created.
The requests started to come in from other classrooms, BCS staff, and parents.
“Can you help the babies make muffins?”
“Can you clean the Toddler Room?”
“ Can you invite me to visit?”
“Can you help us clean our wagon? We took it to the garden and it got dirty.”.
The preschoolers also reached out to friends for help by writing letters – “Can you help us fix our cabinet? Bring tools.”
In some cases they asked for help helping others – “Can you help us fix this plane for the toddlers? We need glue and tools.”
The preschoolers borrowed a stamp from the office so they could process requests when they were completed. They wrote back to other classrooms, made muffins, fixed toys, and cleaned. Most importantly, they worked together to solve problems.
For a new class of students just joining the school, moving up from the old toddler room, and adjusting to two new teachers, this project was a critical step in developing the skills needed to become a community and building students’ confidence. Beyond the many language and literacy skills used at the Help Desk, the project expanded students’ ability
to persist with challenging tasks, ask for help when needed, use resources to solve problems, and imagine solutions to complex questions.
In order to build on the preschoolers’ problem solving skills, new jobs were established in the classroom:
Now the preschoolers look to each other for help solving problems, resolving conflicts, finding lost items, and getting dressed to go outside.
This project also relates to a schoolwide effort to build curriculum around the rights and responsibilities of being part of a community. The Democracy Project, a collaborative effort of all staff that started in 2021, created language to highlight the rights and responsibilities of all members of the BCS community.
This language is used in daily interactions with all students from infants through preschool. The Help Desk reminds us that communities are strengthened by shared values and collaborative problem solving.
Everyone has the right to feel safe and we have a responsibility to help each other when someone feels unsafe or needs care.
We all have a right to our own ideas and a responsibility to listen to the ideas of others, especially when solving problems together.
We have the right to help when we need it and the responsibility to listen when others are asking for help.
“Can you help us fix our cabinet? Bring tools.”
“Can you help the babies make some muffins?”
“Can you help us clean the playground for the dance party?”