In the fall of 2009, PK4 teacher, Lindsay Renken, sat down with colleague, Leanne Gotcher, with a simple idea of incorporating travel into the curriculum spurred on by her personal experiences in travel. This was the beginning of Pre-K Airlines. The curriculum now encompasses multiple countries that change year to year based on students' interests and the freedom teachers have to design a unique curriculum.
Pre-K Airlines is incredibly lucky to be based in the diverse city of Houston - a city that brings people from all over the world to visit our medical center, museums, and restaurants. We are also a hub for all kinds of intercontinental travel. Pre-K Airlines uses a project-based approach to teaching that involves the integration of all subject areas; it touches on literacy, math, science, art, history, and language while incorporating field trips, guest speakers, and personal anecdotes for each country visited.
Over the years, Pre-K Airlines has sparked discussions that have led to deeper thinking, new art projects, fantastic storytelling, and many laughs. PK4 Teacher, Lindsay Renken recalls a former student’s question while studying Australia: “If a Kangaroo is an herbivore, does he like salad? Like even cucumbers? Because I don’t like cucumbers. Did you know I can ride my bike without training wheels? Can kangaroos learn to ride bikes? Can we find a video of a kangaroo riding a bike?” Lindsay says it’s the laughter, naïveté and genuine connection with her students that feed her love for teaching. “We become a family that can be weird, loud, and creative together, but can also buckle down and work when needed.”
Lindsay's favorite country visited (in real life) is New Zealand. After taking the Lord of the Rings horseback tour, Lindsay affirmed that "it's literally a fairy tale land." While having visited several of the countries she teaches, Lindsay also forges into the unknown. She works alongside her PK4 colleagues and adds new locations to the curriculum and relishes in discoveries that will create new adventures. “I like including places I haven’t visited, because I get to learn along with students. It inspires me to make changes to the curriculum.”
Pre-K Airlines visits eight places a year, and they're not always the same. Teachers pick both familiar and unfamiliar places so they can learn along with their students. They want to explore with their students as they teach and model how to ask questions and find answers. Their hope is for students to learn how to appreciate and love other cultures. “My favorite part is when our families have a connection to the countries we are visiting; last year, we had families come to the class to teach us about Egypt, Japan, Colombia, and India.” said PK4 teacher, Jillian Schertle. “The family members included are not just moms and dads, but also grandmas and grandpas. They are delighted to share their heritage with us. We always learn so much about their customs and traditions. It is such a beautiful connection between the classroom and families.”
Traveling to different countries and experiencing different cultures never fails to excite students. Their enthusiasm is contagious and dynamic. They love learning new languages and sharing what they are learning because they want everyone to be on an adventure with them! This year, students will travel to Columbia, India, Italy, Egypt, Australia, Japan, and Greece.