Mrs. Kathy Johnson teaches Play-based full-day kindergarten at Fox Meadow Elementary School in South Elgin. Play-based kindergarten provides students with the opportunity to create their own academic learning environment and they practice a large variety of skills.

During class in April the students asked to create their own restaurant in the classrooms dramatic play center. The students chose McDonald’s as their favorite, by a large margin.

The students then had group discussions and collectively decided what they needed in their restaurant while Mrs. Johnson wrote down the items decided upon. The students then went to work creating their very own McDonald’s Restaurant.

Kathy Johnson stated that in creating their classroom McDonald’s the students had an opportunity to apply their background knowledge in a real, meaningful way in a familiar, comfortable scenario. Through building and interacting with their McDonald’s restaurant, the students are building and practicing socio-emotional, literacy skills (phonics, inventive spelling) and fine motors skills. they went to work creating their own large menu items that needed to be displayed as in a real McDonald’s restaurant, Happy Meal toys, French fries, cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, hotcakes, etc. So many created items! The students drew, colored, and labeled their menus utilizing inventive spelling.

Kathy Johnson also said that when the interests of the children are capitalized upon, authentic learning can be maximized and being interest based, it captured their desire to be fully vested in the experience. Mrs. Johnson said that because McDonald’s is a restaurant that transcends all socio-economic situation, all her students know and love it, therefore, the children can fully relate to the experience of eating at one of the restaurants.

Mature play is cooperative and purposeful. Cooperative play is the most mature form of play. Mature play develops socio-emotional growth and skills by practicing role-playing, turn taking and sharing, negotiation and conflict resolution, and problem-solving skills. The students planned how their play would unfold. They discussed and negotiated the various roles of French fry cooker, burger maker, cashier, order taker for the main menu and the drive-up window, customers, and drink person.  All of these skills develop self-regulation. The children learn to be flexible thinkers and by playing McDonald’s, students are developing their ability to begin to think in the more abstract.

When Principal Sjoukje Brown, stopped in Mrs. Johnson classroom and had a chance to see what the students had created she decided to contact Local Bear Family McDonald’s and Owner/Operator David Bear. The Bear Family is very proud to have been the children’s restaurant of choice to re- create in their classroom and even more proud to have been a part of their play-based learning at Fox Meadow Elementary School.