Kindergarten mindset list: 5-year-olds’ cultural DNA
Legos, ice cream, Mommy and Daddy: An elementary school principal tries to understand the cultural context of the kindergarten mindset.
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One year, when I was principal in a small rural public school in Maine, I wondered, "What is the kindergarten mindset list for my kids? Would their list reveal intriguing things about the rate of change in our local cultural mindsets? What are the innovations or changes that have taken place in a quick five years to which we are already acclimated, but which account for their whole life span? This could yield a core sample of the life of the mind for small town 5-year-olds!"Skip to next paragraph
Todd R. Nelson is head of school at The School in Rose Valley outside Philadelphia. He has been a Monitor contributor of Home Forum essays, poems, Op-Ed commentaries and feature articles since 1989. He writes a monthly column for Teachers.net. He and his wife, Lesley, have three adult children.
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As it turned out, their mindset list ranged from the sublime to the humorously idiosyncratic. Though a few details … well, most of the details … are decidedly local, you can get a sense of the worldview of any kid beginning the long march toward that freshmen year of post-secondary education. (And how many college freshmen could identify how “The Long March” resonates in our collective historical mindset?)
Here’s what I knew that my students knew:
1. Adams School has always had a green playground structure and timber frame nature center … and a big granite rock by the bike rack. (All of this was just installed in August).
3. School always begins with a parachute game and the principal playing bagpipes on the town common. (We take it one year at a time.)
4. There has never been a merry-go-round or teeter-totter on the playground. (The old playground equipment was removed, alas.)
6. The flag always flies at half-mast on Sept. 11.
These are, of course, external factors of a mindset – more the adult mindset for kindergartners. To venture inside their own personal mindset, I invited the freshmen class to my office for a little an interview. Here is an introductory look, in no particular order, for the cultural record. This is where the rubber really meets the road.
1. Charlie drives the bus. I like going home.
2. We have the greatest, greatest time at school.
3. I can do an upside down thing on the playground.
4. I go down the slide backwards with my head pointing forward.
5. We like our teacher.
6. We get to be learned.
7. I’m making a woolly mammoth out of Legos. It evolved into hairless elephants from the Dinophyllus that weighed 14 times as much as a giraffe
8. The first movie I saw in a theater was Cars.
9. My mommy’s name is “Mommy,” and my dad’s name is “Daddy.”
10. Our parents make the best, best ice cream cones and sundaes.
This is where the mindset rubber meets the road. I’m not sure that Beloit College gathers all of the available mindset information, since they list only the chronological experiences available to their freshmen class. I’d like to hear a little more about sliding attitude, teacher appreciation, movie viewing, and ice cream preferences.
Further interviews may be required to complete my findings and connect the dots. Clearly, this is a complex matrix. Beloit has it easy. On the other hand, I have 12 years to prepare the kindergartners I know for Beloit. I’m wondering where to start.
Todd R. Nelson is head of school at The School in Rose Valley.
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