Checking in on JK Students' Interests

by: Merry Markunas, JK Teacher
Children engage in dramatic play with a "let’s see what happens attitude" - giving them free rein to express and interpret their knowledge and understanding of the world. Children are naturally drawn to pretend play. For example, students in The Experiential School often engage in what they call “playing family.” These scenes tend to include activities such as: assigning familial roles, using household objects, feeding the babies, and putting the babies to sleep. During dramatic play, the children are developing critical social and emotional skills (e.g., collaboration, emotional self-regulation, and problem-solving). Experiential School teachers observe how children interact with one another, the language they use, and how they improvise with the materials in dramatic play. This allows teachers to get a sense of the children's thinking and learning, which provokes ideas for creating a meaningful curriculum.

Recently, Mrs. Markunas and Mrs. Thompson noticed their Junior Kindergarten students playing hotel with Post It notes and notepads, taking turns being guests and staff, and checking each other in and out. The teachers followed their lead to begin exploring the hospitality industry. 

After brainstorming things they’d like to learn about hotels, the students brought their questions to the experts with a field trip to the Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach, where the Shorecrest contingent was warmly greeted by the Director of Rooms and the Director of Food/Beverage. The group entered the lower level of the hotel and learned a little bit about the history of the property, which was founded in 1928, just five years after Shorecrest was founded! After climbing the grand staircase - the unanimous highlight of the trip - the JK students were able to go behind the front desk and take turns pretending to check in the teachers and the staff. 

The group then took a pit stop at Maritana, the fine dining restaurant on site. From there they trekked to the grand ballroom where the Director of Facilities and the Pastry Chef talked about their roles at the hotel. 

Mrs. Markunas recalled, “We got to follow the pastry chef into her kitchen and see what she and her staff were creating for a wedding that night. On to the hotel room we went! We were able to see a suite and take in oceanfront views, sit on the bed, and check out the bathroom.”  

The trip concluded with a scoop of ice cream from Uncle Andy's Ice Cream Shop. “We are so grateful for the staff at The Don who made it one for the books! They went above and beyond and made it a lovely experience for us all,” shared the JK teachers. 

When the students returned to school on Monday after the Friday field trip, they entered the classrooms to find that the loft space had been transformed into a chic hotel named MarThompson (inspiration from a student who combined their names last year). The area includes a check in desk/office space, and two guest rooms, and has been spruced up with tropical wallpaper and many new and fun accessories to make the space feel like a hotel. They were also able to take turns at a real sewing machine to sew bags to hold their travel items and hotel room keys.

With their newfound knowledge and experiences and environment transformed, where will the JK students’ dramatic play take them next?! 

Find some photos from the inquiry and tour here.


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St Petersburg, FL 33703
Phone: (727) 522-2111  |  Fax: (727) 527-4191

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Shorecrest Preparatory School is a private, non-sectarian, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students preschool through high school, located in St. Petersburg, Florida.