While studying transportation in the Chinese immersion classroom, we noticed the pre-K Birds and Fish were really excited to learn about special vehicles like police cars, ambulances and fire trucks. So after taking a class field trip to the Fire Engine 3 in Chelsea, we decided to work with the children to create their own fire station as one part of our neighborhood capstone project. Completing projects in the immersion classroom is always challenging because of the added language component, but after seeing how much the students loved the fire station we were confident their enthusiasm for the theme would encourage them to finish this ambitious three-week project.

Eight students worked on the fire station along with two immersion teachers. Our first step in creating the fire station was to brainstorm what we needed and make a list, which included a fire truck, firefighter clothes, firefighter hats, ladders, oxygen tanks and poles. Then we all agreed the fire station would be a fire truck shape, and that it would be called Engine 23.

Four boxes were used for the truck.

Four boxes were used for the truck.

With our plan in place, it was time to get to work! The group began by creating the firefighter uniforms using black garbage bags and duct tape. They looked at pictures of real uniforms for inspiration, adding FDNY and their names out of yellow tape, then drew and cut out badges and pasted them onto their uniforms. The second step was to make the fire station. Four boxes were used, two for the front and two for the body of the truck. The children helped teachers secure the boxes together using duct tape and hot glue. Then everyone painted the fire station inside and out, drew the windows and doors and cut and painted some cardboard to make lights. They also made sure to add details such as door handles and side-view mirrors. In the last week, the children added fireman’s poles that were painted gold, as well as a ladder made from hot-glued paper towel and toilet paper rolls. For the final touch, they used paper plates and construction paper to make their helmets, and liter soda bottles to create the perfect oxygen tanks. With all of this done, FDNY Engine 23 was ready to come to the rescue!

Every firefighter needs a ladder!

Every firefighter needs a ladder!

Making the fire truck.

Making the fire truck.

Adding details.

Adding details.

From the initial brainstorming session through every stage of the building process, all instructions were given in Chinese. Teachers used pictures, gestures and modeling to make sure the children understood what they were being asked to do. When students gave their ideas in English, the teachers would repeat it in Chinese. Sometimes teachers would also ask for help and have children translate the directions for their friends. It was a great opportunity for students to learn and use a lot of new Chinese vocabulary words, and to make things even more exciting, they had the opportunity to show off all of this language learning when they recorded a video explaining the process of creating the fire station. The children did an amazing job describing the project, and we uploaded the video to iPads so parents and visitors could watch it at the final presentation.

Firefighters to the rescue! After receiving a call, the students rush to help – and even rescue a trapped baby!

Firefighters to the rescue! After receiving a call, the students rush to help – and even rescue a trapped baby!

Over our two-day culminating event, the Purple/Zi Se firefighters were so happy to present everything they made to their grownups, as well as other members of the Avenues community. While they were presenting, suddenly FDNY Engine 23 got calls from 213 Books and Art and Avenues Super Restaurant to help put out some “fires.” They were very surprised by the calls but rushed to help and did a great job – they even rescued a trapped baby and some animals. Another big surprise for the little firefighters was that the real firefighters from Engine 3 came to see them! Everyone was beyond excited! As their teachers, we are so proud of their hard work on this project and believe their time making and working in their very own fire station will be a great childhood memory for all of them.

The firefighters from Engine 3 make a surprise visit!

The firefighters from Engine 3 make a surprise visit!