Animal research projects are common in the elementary world. The second-grade teachers came to me and said they were going to an animal research project. The question became how to allow their students to have ownership of their learning while meeting various curriculum standards? Here are six areas that this project fit student needs.
It all began with a nonfiction reading unit. The main objective of the unit was for students to effectively read nonfiction text. The goal was for students to know how to use various text features and determine what facts are important to share. In their reading groups, students were exposed to a variety of nonfiction books where the strategies were taught. Then, they applied those strategies to create their own digital story.
Animals became the focus due to availability of information, student interest, and the connection to the science curriculum. Students in second grade learn about animals related to seasonal changes, animal habitats, food chains, and life cycles. All these elements became part of what students researched about their chosen topic.
After spending time reading various nonfiction books. Students prepared for a field trip to the local zoo. The zoo provided maps for each student. They were asked to plan out three animals that they might be interested in learning about. Then, they worked in their field trip groups to plan a route that would allow them to see all of their choices. Mapping skills such as the compass rose, legend, and scale were taught while students were planning.
After visiting the zoo, students decided what animal they would like to know more about. This could be from their original list or another animal that caught their interest while on the trip. Then they had to apply the nonfiction reading skills they had learned in the beginning of the project. Using both print and digital resources, they collected information that they could share in diary format. They focused on both specific science concepts, but also what they deemed important for their audience to know.
Once they collected their information, they wrote diary entries using books like Dairy of a Worm and Dairy of a Spider by Doreen Cronin as a model. Students focused on making their writing entertaining, but also incorporating the facts they collected in their research. They illustrated each of their entries.
This was the best part! After writing several entries they created a digital story, giving their writing a greater audience and purpose. We are a 1:1 iPad school so we decided to try the Flipgrid app. This app was easy to use and allowed the students to share their work. Tip: When recording we had the students start with their last journal entry. So when they were finished, the first video would be their first entry. Basically, they had to record in reverse order. Honestly after projects like this, I am hooked on Flipgrid. It has endless possibilities (but that is a whole different post). Every child, both quiet and outgoing, was able to share their writing with the school community. Additionally, it also allowed digital citizenship and online safety to be addressed. Click here if you would like to see their work!
Author: Kelly Hincks
I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a librarian for the past five years. I was a classroom teacher for four years prior to that. I have worked in charter, public, and private schools. My favorite thing about being a librarian is the opportunities I have to work both with students and teachers. I love the co-teaching opportunities and connections I have been able to make! I have served on AASL committees as a member and chair.