Exploring Georgia Habitats with 3rd Grade

IMG_1351Each of our 3rd grade classes have booked time in the media center to research the habitats of Georgia.  Here’s what they need to know:

S3L1. Students will investigate the habitats of different organisms and the dependence of
organisms on their habitat.
a. Differentiate between habitats of Georgia (mountains, marsh/swamp, coast,
Piedmont, Atlantic Ocean) and the organisms that live there.
b. Identify features of green plants that allow them to live and thrive in different regions
of Georgia.
c. Identify features of animals that allow them to live and thrive in different regions of
d. Explain what will happen to an organism if the habitat is changed.

S3L2. Students will recognize the effects of pollution and humans on the environment.
a. Explain the effects of pollution (such as littering) to the habitats of plants and
b. Identify ways to protect the environment.
• Conservation of resources
• Recycling of materials

During their library time, I set the stage by doing a brief mini-lesson.  We looked at the standard and talked about the word “feature”.  We tied this to the word “adaptation” and looked up the definition online.

a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.

Then we looked at a National Geographic video on owls.  We didn’t watch the entire video, but we paused each time a new feature of the owl was mentioned:  its satellite head, its huge eyes, its large wings, etc.  We tied this back to the word “feature” an the word “adaptation” so that students would know the kinds of things they were looking for in their research.

Next, I posed the question:  Why does all of this matter to us?  why do we need to learn about animals, plants, and their habitats?  Before they answered, we watched a news clip that aired this morning.  It was a perfect fit to our topic because it showed a black bear roaming around near an elementary school’s dumpster in Hall County.  IMG_1346


After watching this clip, I posed the question again.  Students said things like:

  • If we know about plants and animals, then we’ll know how to take care of them.
  • If we know about habitats, then we’ll know how to not pollute them.
  • We’ll know how to keep animals alive and where they belong.
  • and more.

I was really glad that I watched the news this morning at the gym instead of rushing in to school because that clip really set the stage for our research.

For about 30 minutes, students used a graphic organizer to gather information about the habitats, plants, and animals of Georgia in a variety of ways.  They could freely float between 3 different areas in the library.

  • Books:  I used the State Standards Publishing series for regions, rivers, and habitats of Georgia.
  • Posters:  These posters featured different kinds of animals along with a map of where they were found in Georgia.  Students had to identify an animal, look at what region of Georgia it was found in, and then think about what habitat that would fall under on their graphic organizer.
  • Websites:  Students had access to a Sqworl site that had songs, informational sites, and games about the habitats and regions of Georgia.  http://sqworl.com/uo3kud IMG_1352

As usual, it was interesting to see where students chose to go.  Some went directly to games.  Others went to posters.  Other chose books.  It really said a lot about what kinds of media our students need access to in order to match their needs as learners.  Some students stayed at the same station or site for the entire 30 minutes while others moved to several stations.  During this time, the teacher, student teacher, special education teacher, and I were able to walk around and facilitate learning.  We asked questions to nudge students thinking or spent time showing students how they might pay close attention to a game and gather facts while still maintaining momentum in their game.  As usual, it was very freeing and individualized.  This has come to be one of my favorite models for gathering information.  My regret is that we don’t have more day scheduled to find information.  Now, the students will use their 1 to 1 netbooks to continue to explore the Sqworl site on their own.

Election Centers 2012

October was busy!  I had big plans to do multiple kinds of election lessons with classes and time just slipped away from me.  Our school did a mock election through Youth Leadership Initiative.  I also did a storybook character election using “for president” books and a Google form.  Several classes are still completing that lesson this week and we’ll announce the storybook president on Friday.

Today, all of 4th grade came for an election lesson.  I put together an election pathfinder with various links:  information about the election, Youtube videos of the candidates and election analysis, interactive election games, electoral college interactive maps, candidate-matching surveys, and campaign sites.  Since our 4th graders now have 1 to 1 netbooks, they brought those to the library.  I did a quick intro on the carpet and previewed a few of the sites.  Then, students went to tables to choose which sites they focused on.

One of the most popular sites was the NY Times electoral college floating bubbles.  This site showed states that had already chosen their candidate vs states that were undecided.  For each state, the site listed reasons the state was decided or undecided.  Students could move the undecided bubbles to either candidate to see how that would impact the election.  Many were amazed at the number of states already decided based on previous voting and polls.

Another popular site was USA Today’s Candidate Match.  This site allowed students to take a stance on a variety of topics and see how that matched with candidates beliefs.  Students could even look at what the 2 candidates have said about the topic.  I loved seeing kids having discussions with adults and peers about the issues and choosing their candidates based on the issues rather than on popularity or what their peers were choosing.

Again, I was amazed at the level of engagement these students were able to sustain for an extended amount of time when they were offered choice and variety.  I even had election, president, and voting books on the table for those who were waiting on sites to load or those that were tired of the technology.  Very few of the books were used, but some students did find them valuable.

At the close of the exploration, I had students answer a Google form (also found on the pathfinder).  Students had to tell something they learned, tell if their opinion on the candidates had changed, and tell how many electoral votes it took to win.  I wanted a mixture of fact and opinion questions for the closing.  After students completed the survey, we came back to the carpet to see the results.  It was nice to quickly grab some facts from the spreadsheet to share rather than having students tell facts aloud.  It saved time and allowed students to be anonymous.  We ended with a brief conversation on being an informed voter.

Even though I didn’t get to do as much with as many classes as I wanted, I was proud of the impact that these resources had with our 4th grade students.  Now, I have sent the pathfinder link to the classroom teacher to push out to students through Edmodo.  They will continue to use these resources in class.

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