Education majors engage preschoolers with theme-based dioramas

Thirty University of Wisconsin-Platteville teacher candidates recently implemented an effective teaching strategy by creating theme-based dioramas and sharing them with Pre-K children enrolled in the university’s Children Center.

The education students are enrolled in the Foundations of Early Childhood Education course, taught by Dr. Wonim Son, associate professor of early childhood education in the School of Education at UW-Platteville.

“Young children have so much potential to grow and develop their critical and creative minds, which are important lifelong skills,” said Son. “That is why early childhood teachers need to cherish and support children’s creativity early on.”

For the assignment, students had to choose a theme, write the rationale for their theme choice – explaining why they thought it was an important concept to teach in their classroom – list 10 important contents for children’s learning based on their research, provide information about three picture books related to the theme, choose three picture books to read to the pre-K children, list five resources, write a paper and take a photo of their diorama.

Themes included the life cycle of a butterfly, farm animals, seasonal dressing, sensory beach/ocean, rainforest, underwater/ocean, four seasons, planets, circus and arctic animals.

“By designing and sharing their three-dimensional diorama projects and related picture books, our teacher candidates provided children with the opportunity to stimulate and boost their cognitive development and creative thinking,” said Son. “This thought-provoking and very active learning event was a fun and enjoyable learning experience for both college students and young children at the Children’s Center.”

“I loved that the diorama project gave us an opportunity to implement creativity into the teaching experience,” said Jarikka Douglas, a junior elementary education major at UW-Platteville from Loganville, Wisconsin. “Working with a group not only allowed us to collaborate on our ideas, but also work effectively as a team, which is essential in the educational field.”

“Having the opportunity to make our Amazon rainforest diorama come to life and share that with the children at the Children’s Center was something I will never forget,” said Jennah Smith, a junior elementary education major and special education minor from Davis Junction, Illinois. “The children absolutely loved observing and recognizing the animals from our book, ‘The Great Kapok Tree,’ in our diorama. It was so fun to take part in a hands-on teaching experience. I think I enjoyed it as much as they did.”

“Being able to give students the opportunity to engage with children in real life situations during their college career is such a valuable experience,” said Julie Soja, director of the Children’s Center at UW-Platteville. “The Children’s Center is happy to provide these types of experiences with School of Education students whenever we can. The dioramas that were interactive, giving the children the ability to really touch and feel them, were what the children enjoyed most about these projects.”   

UW-Platteville students who participated in the project included Douglas, Smith, Amber Lueder, Leah Ball, Macie Alexa, Carly McAuliffe, Parris Bunker, Kamyria Gray-Dillard, Kylie Smith, Amy Bakken, Griffin Koester, Alli Locy, Kami Schlotthauer, Haley Fiez, Erin O’Bryon, Brianna Schellin, Michala Boese, Margaret Emerson, Dani Sundling, Katie Engelbrecht, Sierra Evans, Colleen Mackie, Kelsie Goffinet, Kaitlyn Norris, Alexis Ames, Marissa Kreul, Lexi Jansen, Lexus Trickel, Jennifer Kaiser and Emily Wiklin.