Saturday, March 08, 2014

Endangered Species Project Revised

It's that time of year when we're preparing for our grade-level signature project, The Endangered Species report.

It's time to revise this unit yet again to better reflect new standards, student needs, and the current education landscape. A report of facts and information is less interesting or motivating today because we all know that the information is found with a click of a computer key.  Instead, we want to deepen the project with student-driven essential questions.

Other changes we're going to focus on include:
  • quality over quantity
  • collaboration
  • presentation skills
  • reading fluency
  • collaborative Google presentations
  • embedding new standards
This is a rough sketch of the project to come, a project framework that will develop with student/teacher discussion and design:
  • First, students are watching The Amazing Panda Adventure. They watch the film for about 15-20 minutes once or twice a week. This movie serves as a nice bridge from our current standardized test-centered work to a focus on endangered animals.
  • Next we'll discuss nature preserves, and research the kinds of nature preserves that exist on earth. In the fall, we spent several days at a local nature preserve, and we'll connect that work to this study. 
  • Teachers will guide research and collaborative skill, and also provide background information related to vocabulary, research sites, and more. 
  • After that we'll identify a number of nature preserves we want to focus on.
  • Small groups of students will "adopt" a preserve to study. I hope they'll have a chance to Skype or "Hangout" with the preserve naturalists.
  • Study will include a focus of the work people do there, the animals protected, and the geography of the location.
  • Students will include a small service learning activity as part of their research, a learning activity that will support the preserve and educate others in some way.
  • Students will create a Google presentation about the preserve and animals.
  • Students will create an entertaining and informative presentation to share the information they learned with family members and classmates (we might film the presentations).
  • Finally students will assess their work and impact.
Students' interests and needs will lead this study, but in the meantime I have the following teacher homework.
  • Create a guided research list of animal preserves around the Globe.
  • Create a list of information topics that students may want to include in their work.
  • Cull the related standards from the CCSS.
  • Think about the way I'll create collaborative research teams--teams that will serve to develop each others' learning.
  • As we watch the film, discuss the project with students. Those discussions will create enthusiasm and early ideas.
  • Reach out to my learning community including parents for links and information related to contacts and resources in this area.