Pre-K learners explore the National Postal MuseumThis post is from Debbie Bartels, Education Aide at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum, in Washington, DC.

The pre-K learner can be a self-centered learner. Have you ever tried to tell a group of pre-K students some amazing fact about your history museum-like how the post office used stage coaches to deliver the mail in the past- only to have a student eagerly raise their hand and proudly announce to the group something completely off topic like “I have a shell”? And you thought things were going so well!

Well, that’s how it goes sometimes when working with our youngest museum visitors. But rather than give up on your goal of imparting amazing facts about your history museum, why not tell the kids those facts in the context of what they already know. . .make it all about them.

If we deliver our message wrapped up in a package of things the kids already know, they are much more apt to unwrap it, and maybe even take it home with them and play with it later.

And what do these wonderful, self-centered learners know?

They know Music.
They know Pretending.
They know Numbers.
They know Color.
They know Shapes.
They know Sorting.
They know how to be Silly and have Fun.

Understanding that, when I welcome pre-K visitors to the National Postal museum, I have them clap along to the “Good Morning Song”–a little ditty I made up about the museum. When I move the kids around the museum, I have them pretend to be whatever we are looking for: galloping horses, chugging choo choo trains or Letter Carriers marching down the street searching for a mailbox to deliver our letter. And at all times, I really do try to remember to be silly and have fun with them.

I have found that if I incorporate these elements in whatever message I am trying to convey, the kids are much more receptive to it. Because the kids already understand “HOW” I am delivering the message, “WHAT” I am trying to convey becomes a little easier to digest.

Pre-K learners explore the National Postal MuseumSo by all means, the next time you are engaging a group of Pre-K learners, make it all about them and build on what they already know. Sing to them, pretend with them, and be silly with them. Who cares if the other museum visitors look at you kind of funny–it’s all part of the process!