Friday, December 16, 2016

Animals & Habitats STREAM Project

Animals & Habitats STREAM Project

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” He understood the importance of engaging students in their learning. At Cardiff Elementary School we strive to engage students by inspiring a love of learning in them. Recently, our second grade digital age learners investigated the big idea that living things depend on their habitat to meet basic needs. Various hands-on, technology-rich, standards-based activities empowered students to own their learning throughout their grade level STREAM unit known as Animals & Habitats.
Collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and creativity were embedded in this unit. These young budding scientists were divided into five groups and used internet webcams located across the globe to observe panda bears, elephants, gorillas, tigers and polar bears in their natural environments. Students made careful observations of their assigned animal. They recorded data regarding the animal’s habitat and behavior onto an organized table. Next, they demonstrated their computational thinking skills by analyzing the data, looking for patterns, and drawing conclusions about animal needs. Once students better understood and could empathize with their team’s assigned animal, they began gathering and discovering more details and information. Students researched and collaborated in teams using digital and print resources to deepen their understanding about their selected animals. Their research led to each student becoming a reporter and creating a digital newsletter that reflected their understanding. A labeled animal diagram and a double bar graph depicting all of the studied animals’ lifespans in the wild and in captivity was then represented in their published work.
The next challenge for students was to become designers and architects while building animal enclosures that would meet the basic needs of their team’s animal.  A fun and educational trip to the San Diego Zoo to gain field experience inspired students to inquire, observe and construct additional knowledge. Once back on campus, they became innovative designers by digitally drawing their enclosure plan and building an animal enclosure prototype that met the basic needs and provided enrichment opportunities for their team’s animal.
The highlight of this STREAM unit occurred when teams of students produced documentaries showcasing their in-depth knowledge and awareness of animal habitat needs. The green screen studio purchased with the SDCUE mini-grant funds combined with Touchcast turned ordinary students into artists, broadcasters, and filmmakers as each team produced an informative documentary about their animal and its habitat.  

All of this hard work will long be remembered by the students that participated because they were involved and engaged. At the end of the unit, a celebration of learning attended by parents, teachers and students provided these young life-long learners an audience and an opportunity to shine!


Deborah Heyer Bio

Deborah Heyer has been a teacher for the last twenty-five years and employed by school districts in Vista, California; Fairfax, Virginia; and currently in Cardiff, California. Traditionally a sixth-grade math and science teacher, she now serves as an Educational Technology Specialist. Deborah is passionate about empowering digital age learners and supporting teachers as they integrate technology in meaningful ways into the classroom. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Central Michigan University and a Masters of Science degree in Curriculum
and Instructional Leadership from National University. Additionally, she maintains a Digital Citizenship Certification from Common Sense Education and a Leading Edge Certification for Blended Learning. She’s a lifelong learner with a growth mindset that is committed to both students and teachers. You can follow her on Twitter @debheyer

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