Serving Preschool Through 8th Grade in the San Francisco East Bay Since 1962

Red Barn Race Day

In Red Barn, a shared interest in motorcycles sparked a year-long inquiry into the world of motocross.
At the heart of ECE’s Reggio Emilia-inspired philosophy is the belief in allowing students' natural curiosities and inquiries to guide their learning journey. Seven Hills students shape their curriculum right from their earliest days on campus. In Red Barn, a shared interest in motorcycles sparked a year-long inquiry into the world of motocross during the 2022-23 school year, culminating in a community-building spring Race Day event.

It all began when a small group of Red Barn students discovered a single motorcycle toy in a basket of vehicles while playing in the yard last September. Noticing shared interest in the toy, teachers offered the group of students a chance to craft their own motorcycle figures from polymer clay, drawing them into the curriculum.

“This is a child-led curriculum where we, as teachers, observe and listen,” said ECE teacher Shauna Maraccini. She explained that the teacher’s role is to support the student’s cycle of inquiry without a pre-established outcome, finding ways to weave in literacy and other learning skills along the way. When children are invested, they are able to go deeper in their learning. Alongside teachers, they become researchers—identifying a point of curiosity, then gathering data, hypothesizing, testing, observing, reflecting, and forming new understandings.

As the students continued their investigations by studying dirt bike figurines and images, they developed a special interest in the bike’s components and mechanics. They cut out photos and parts from motorcycle magazines to create their own posters, engaging their imaginations, developing descriptive language, and practicing their scissor skills for Kindergarten. Negotiation and sharing during play with the figurines laid the foundation for the social-emotional skills they will carry with them throughout the Seven Hills journey.

To enrich the inquiry, teachers employed another key component of the Reggio-Emilia philosophy: community involvement. Red Barn students enjoyed visits from several community motocross experts, including a Seven Hills parent who showcased a real motorbike and left a replica engine for them to study and Hayden Florez, a motocross racer, who shared insights into his career. Additional support from the Seven Hills technology department and the Epicurean team propelled the inquiry forward as students continued to build and stretch their imaginations within the realm of motocross.

As the power of one small group’s wonderings spread organically to the rest of the class, the Red Barn teaching team watched in wonder as the rich learning opportunity unfolded throughout the year. To cap off this fruitful inquiry, the Red Barn students wanted to race! They formed committees—rider committee, publicity team, and event crew—flexing their teamwork skills to bring Race Day to life. Finally, on a sunny day in May, the racers took to the course, showcasing their handlebar tricks and personalized sponsor bibs. With parents, older students, faculty, and staff lining the course to cheer them on, it was a special student-led and student-centered event to remember.