Marvel and D.C. superheroes are regulars in King School’s Prekindergarten classes; the students channel the characters daily. Teachers Jen Agro and Jessica Vigliotti saw a teaching opportunity in the role-playing. Infusing the ever-present superheroes into lesson plans, they created student-led activities that tackled concepts like good versus evil while honing academic skills and social-emotional development in fun and engaging ways.
In an inquiry-based environment that lets students lead the learning process, the curriculum is borne out of activities and lessons planned by the teachers called provocations. The provocations are often centered around a persistent theme that Argo and Vigliotti have identified in their classrooms. As themes persist, new provocations are added until alternate themes emerge.
“Sometimes, there isn't traction past the first few provocations, and we know that study is short-lived,” said Argo. “With horses, cameras, and [super]heroes, the children really connected with the work, and we were able to do a deeper dive.”
In the “Creating a Superhero City” provocation, students explored images of cities and discussed features and spaces that are important to daily life. Using an overhead projector and Mangatiles, students designed large-scale buildings, paying attention to geometry and scale as they traced and cut the designs out. The buildings were assembled into a mural complete with scale images of each student’s superhero.
Margaux Allen-Alnouri ’36 expressed her affinity for the project. "My favorite part of the superheroes was when we got to pose in front of the city and say, ‘I am a superhero!’”
Experimenting with water, salt, droppers, and spoons, students used science to free hero figurines frozen in ice as they explored scientific concepts like phases of matter in a provocation called “Escape the Freeze.”
In “Building Our Own Superheros,” students had the opportunity to design and sew canvas dolls, honing fine motor skills, an essential ingredient for strong handwriting, in the process.
"I liked making my superhero because I always wanted to be a superhero,’ said Lydia Bellmare ’36. “Super Dash is super fast, just like me."
Students in the upper school Fashion Club visited the classes on multiple occasions to collaborate on wearable costumes for the students. The collaboration fostered social skills and a sense of belonging.
“I liked being able to connect with the younger students and help them express their creativity,” said Olivia Rodrigues ’25. “I felt proud that I was able to help make these students' ideas come to life.”
The weeks-long exploration concluded with a family showcase highlighting students' work.
The King Lower School Reggio Emilia program puts kids’ natural development front and center. Students are now showing interest in dragons and fairies. Argo plans to follow their imaginations and the creatures into the campus gardens and stonewalls as she creates plans that incorporate both fairies and dragons and draw the class out into the new spring season.