Mrs. Christensen infuses fun (and emojis) into her new Middle School math class.

By Rachel Shuster | Faculty, Middle School

Syllabus review. “Get to know me” activities. Classroom rules. 

In any run-of-the-mill classroom, these are some of your typical activities for the first week of class  — but not at Prairie. Especially not in Mrs. Christensen’s Middle School Math class.

Gaggles of sixth grade students are huddled together over stacks of paper, practically squealing with excitement. They’re wearing Hawaiian lais, surrounded by the sound of traditional hula music. Mrs. Christensen has decked out her room in tropical decor, complete with parrots and pineapples hanging from the ceiling.

The activity: “Escape from Emoji Island.” The objective: Review. Students work in groups to attempt five mini-challenges, each focused on a skill from the previous year, in order to solve the problems correctly and — you guessed it — escape Emoji Island.

“The kids were engaged in math for 45 minutes straight!” Christensen laughs. “There wasn’t a single kid just sitting there. This gave me the opportunity to get to know them, see where their skills are at this point, and infuse some friendly competition and fun into the classroom.”

Christensen herself looks like the happy-face emojis plastered across her classroom walls, all smiles during her first week as a new teacher at TPS. She has taught for 16 years, but says Prairie feels like a fresh environment.

“It’s a huge culture shock — a good one,” she explains. “There’s so much positivity here. Kids are still kids, but there’s a lot of kindness. You can tell that it has been preached here since they started Early School. Everybody is so encouraging with each other.”

“I think it’s really, really cool.”

The “queen of emojis” says she’s excited to implement more activities like today’s — project-based learning opportunities, some cross-curricular with her fellow teachers in other subjects. 

Today’s activity is just the beginning.