A favorite project that seems to dwell in the memories of my gifted and talented students from year to year is the time they made Leprechaun Traps in Kindergarten. It’s how I introduce our “Inventor Thinking” unit and ties in, of course, with St. Patrick’s Day.
As I introduced the project yesterday to my newest group of Kinder students, I was met with the usual enthusiasm. There was lots of excitement generated as they brainstormed ways to entice a leprechaun into their trap, and even more as they thought of ideas for ensnaring him.
And then one girl said,”What if I don’t want to trap the leprechaun? What if I think that’s mean?”
For a moment I was speechless. In all of my years of doing this project, none of my students have ever questioned if it was humane or not.
Interestingly, I am the person who carries spiders outdoors rather than smush them – and the person who grabbed a rat snake behind its head when it snuck into our house and flung it outside. I yelled at my husband in the middle of the night when he grabbed a huge pair of hedge clippers to battle a rat that had snuck into the house.
The ethics of trapping leprechauns never once crossed my mind.
My friend over at Not Just Child’s Play, Joelle Trayers, provides examples like this one of ways to discuss ethics with Kindergarten students. Yesterday was only my third meeting with my current Kinder class, so ethics had not entered into our class vocabulary yet. However, I couldn’t miss the opportunity at this point. After a slight pause, I said, “That’s a very good question. What do the rest of you think? Is it okay to trap the leprechauns or is it mean?”
Whether a coincidence or not, the issue was decided by gender. The girls were firmly in defense of the leprechauns and the boys had no intention of being swayed from dreaming up diabolical ways to trap them. (I have, several times, reminded the students we are “just pretending,” but that hasn’t deterred their strong feelings on the subject.)
The girls decided they are still making traps, but they are going to give the leprechauns a reward and an escape route instead of imprisoning them, especially since we will be gone for Spring Break. The boys are more interested in how they can combine Legos with their cardboard boxes than they are about the fate of the leprechauns.
So, a word of warning to any leprechauns in the vicinity of our school in the upcoming weeks: Beware of complex Lego staircases that seem to lead to nowhere. The boys outnumber the girls in my class, and I’m not really sure what they intend to do if you actually do fall into one of their clever contraptions.