Kindergarten Problem Solvers

MaryAnn Dawson

Problem solving isn’t a skill that comes naturally to all; it takes practice and interest in overcoming challenges. We can start practicing this skill as early as Kindergarten. Students at this age love being creative, working with others, and inventing out of this world ideas. Aspen Academy’s social studies curriculum focuses on, in a very simple way, leaders who solve problems (e.g. Cesar Chavez, Malala, Martin Luther King, Jr.) and how the kindergarteners can also become outstanding problem solvers too. One of our Kindergarten Teachers, Mrs. Dawson takes the students through the following process after discussing the leaders and introducing the concept: 

  1. The class discusses actual problems that the class is facing at that moment in the classroom, playground, lunchroom, etc.

  2. Once they name the problem they must describe the problem in detail. 

  3. The students then brainstorm and focus on how they can problem-solve and create a solution together. 

  4. Testing their ideas comes next to see what might work best. 

  5. Finally, the students will come together and decide on the final solution and how they will communicate it with the class and greater community. 


Below are some real life problems that our kinders discussed and what they came up with for their collective solution. 


Problem 1: Running into each other on the playground

Solution 1: Kinders want to set up signs and one-way lanes to avoid collisions. The students drew lines and arrows on a flipchart to describe their ideas. In addition, they created signs that said “slow down” and “STOP” and took turns holding the sign so their classmates could play safely.  

Problem 2:  Cleaning up in the cafeteria - Students are not cleaning up in the cafeteria before lining up. (They want to be first in line to get turns with swings, balls, or just get to recess quickly.)

Solution 2: put up signs to clean up; sit at table until it is all cleaned up and wait to be dismissed to line up. (These are not working because some take a long time to eat and they leave a mess right at the end. We need to keep brainstorming.)  


Problem 3: Taking fair turns on the swings; students take long turns and refuse to share.

Solution 3: 5 minute timer (too long) and next week we'll test drive the 2 minute timer.



Stay tuned to learn more about how our kindergarteners end up communicating their solutions with the school admin team.  


For more on Kindergarten at Aspen Academy, click here.

About the Author

MaryAnn Dawson, Kindergarten Instructor, Student Leadership & Entrepreneurship Coach

Mary Ann has been involved in education and self-development in various ways for the last 30 years. After earning a B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan, she worked in the private sector in telecommunications. Later she worked in adult education in libraries, and public schools. A passion for brain-based learning led to over 400 hours of course work in Educational Kinesiology. After earning a Master’s degree in Education from Regis University she has taught both Kindergarten and 1st grade. As a founding teacher at Aspen Academy, Mary Ann has loved the creative freedom to teach to the whole child in light of the distinct learning style of each student. It is her privilege and joy to foster those effervescent moments of self-discovery and empowerment in the lives of young children. Mary Ann and her husband Steve have grown sons and one grandson. She enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, reading, and hiking in the mountains.



B.A., Literature, University of Michigan
M.Ed., Education, Regis University