The Shoe Project

A Project by Kindergarten Students at Hong Kong International School, Hong Kong

Length of project: 3 weeks
Teachers:  Mary Jane Elliott, Carol Young

Phase One—Beginning the Project

Prior to the Shoe Project, the class participated in two other projects that were theme-related, with the topic selected by the teacher. For this particular project the children were asked to select the topic. Suggestions ranged from "mountain lions" to "Barbie dolls." Developing a screen for topic selection with young children was difficult! Numerous conversations ensued before the class, encouraged by the teacher, decided to investigate shoes. Many children had just purchased new shoes and were exchanging stories about how they bought them, so they were quite interested in this topic. Each child brought three pairs of shoes to school that included everything from size 14 man's basketball shoes to 4-inch platforms! The children brainstormed questions for the investigation.

Phase Two—Developing the Project

Several parents enrolled in a Project Approach workshop prior to working on the Shoe Project. With their assistance, five children could select a question to investigate and have an adult facilitate their work and document their learning. Highlights of the project included: (1) transforming a shoe into a planter; (2) testing various shoes to identify which were waterproof and recording the findings on a chart; (3) making shoes, using a shoe tree as a form and applying papier-mache, drying it in the oven, and then decorating; (4) taking a basketball shoe apart and identifying the pieces; and (5) putting battery-powered lighting and a small cooling fan into a "shoe house." A parent who worked for Nike heard about the project and furnished the class with shoe parts from the factory and answered questions. He also supplied posters and pamphlets that allowed the children to find answers to questions they had. My son Michael, a college engineering major, assisted the team that was interested in electricity. They learned about wiring, alligator clips, and switches! Throughout Phase Two the children studied real shoes and sketched them. Many designed high-fashion shoes that would amaze even Salvatore Ferragamo!

Phase Three—Concluding the Project

The children documented their own learning about shoes. With adult supervision a team of children laminated digital photos and used the safety-edge paper cutter for trimming. The photos were sorted and captions were written using invented spelling. A child designed the project title on the computer. The items were then stapled onto a long bulletin board that hung at eye level. At conference time each child took the parents on a journey of the Shoe Project. Other kindergarten classes also visited the display. Prototypes of shoes designed by the children were sent to Nike. The Chief Executive Officer was so impressed with the models that he had the prototypes shipped to Beaverton, Oregon to be displayed at the headquarters. What an honor for the children!


This project demonstrated the strengthening of dispositions for learning. A group of children was determined to take a shoe apart and spent three days on this task until they were successful. A high degree of creativity and cooperation was evident as children designed and created a variety of shoes. Deep feelings were also noted. Feelings of compassion and remorse were displayed as children heard about Chinese children who had their feet broken and were forced to wear tiny shoes. Feelings of being successful and competent were apparent as children raised questions and conducted their own investigations. A heartfelt note of thanks to my son at the conclusion of the project was a powerful witness to the deep personal impact project work can have on a child.

girl taking apart a shoe     performing "surgery" on shoe     constructing a shoe     

sketch of a shoe

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