Exploring Georgia Habitats with Third Grade

Our 3rd grade is currently learning about the plants, animals, and habitats in the 5 regions of Georgia. The teachers wanted students to have an opportunity to gather some background knowledge prior to their lessons in the classroom, so I worked on a series of centers for students to rotate through and experience these standards in a variety of formats.

S3L1. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about the similarities and differences between plants, animals, and habitats found within geographic regions (Blue Ridge Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plains, Valley and Ridge, and Appalachian Plateau) of Georgia.

  • a. Ask questions to differentiate between plants, animals, and habitats found within Georgia’s geographic regions.
  • b. Construct an explanation of how external features and adaptations (camouflage, hibernation, migration, mimicry) of animals allow them to survive in their habitat.
  • c. Use evidence to construct an explanation of why some organisms can thrive in one habitat and not in another.

S3E2. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information on how fossils provide evidence of past organisms.

  • a. Construct an argument from observations of fossils (authentic or reproductions) to communicate how they serve as evidence of past organisms and  the environments in which they lived.
  • b. Develop a model to describe the sequence and conditions required for an organism to become fossilized. (Clarification statement: Types of fossils  (cast, mold, trace, and true) are not addressed in this standard.)

To make instructions easy to access, I put everything on a Google doc with a short link. As each class arrived to the library, I split the class into groups of 3-4 students by having them sit on color dots on the floor. We briefly talked about the main goal of the standards being to compare and contrast the plants, animals, and habitats of the 5 regions of Georgia, and then I sent color dot groups to centers. I kept a timer on my phone for 8-10 minutes per center and students rotated to the next center in number sequence.

Center 1

Georgia Public Broadcasting has an amazing set of virtual tours on a whole range of science and social studies standards. For this center, students explored the physical features of Georgia including the Okefenokee Swamp, fall line, various mountains, Providence Canyon, and the Barrier Islands.  The purpose of this center was for students to explore the physical features through pictures, maps, text, and video and think about what adaptations plants and animals might need in order to live in these areas of Georgia.

Center 2

In addition to regions, students learn about fossils and how those fossils tell us about the past. At this station, I wanted students to see that fossils aren’t just about dinosaurs and that we have fossil discoveries right her in Georgia. Students visited a Georgia fossil site which includes a map of where fossils have been found and what time period they are from.

The site also included lots of text to skim and scan for details about what was learned from the fossils. Students also had access to several books from our library about fossils and how they teach us about the past.

Center 3

This center featured another GPB virtual tour. This one focused on the 5 regions of Georgia. Students could visit as many regions as time allowed and read the text, look at pictures, and watch videos to identify animals and plants that live in each region.  Students could also look at the land and see the possible habitats in each region.

 

Center 4

Since a piece of the standard is about comparing and contrasting, this book featured print books about the regions and habitats of Georgia. Students chose 2 books, which were about 2 different areas of Georgia.

As they read and looked at photographs, they thought about what was the same and different about the 2 regions.

Center 5

This center had the most pieces but the most popular part of this center was looking at various posters that featured groups of animals in Georgia.  There was a poster for bats, snakes, salamanders, dragonflies, lizards, and butterflies as well as a poster of plants.

On the back of the poster, students could see a highlighted map for each plant or animal that showed where it could be found in Georgia. Students identified plants and animals found in specific regions as well as ones that could be found in all regions. If students found a particular animal they were interested, they could use the computer to research more info on that animal. I included links for various animal groups to get them started.

    1. Butterflies/Moths https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org
    2. Dragonflies https://www.insectidentification.org/
    3. Lizards https://srelherp.uga.edu/lizards/index.htm
    4. Salamanders https://srelherp.uga.edu/salamanders/index.htm
    5. Snakes https://georgiawildlife.com/georgiasnakes

I also included some books about animal adaptations such as camouflage, hibernation, and migration.

 

Teacher Role

In each session, the teachers and I rotated around to all the centers to have conversations with individuals or groups of students. We helped students focus on the question of each center and asked follow up questions as needed. I loved seeing what each student was discovering and having me plus a couple of teachers helped us have many conversations. This format had structure, but it also gave students freedom to choose what interested them at each center to spend the most time on. The timing was also fast-paced so there was no time to be bored or be “done”.

When students finished visiting all 5 centers, we came back together on the carpet and students had a chance to share some of the most interesting things that they discovered. Overall, this format served its purpose of gathering background information and it held closely to the wording of the standards. I loved that students were able to explore the standards in a variety of formats and there was variety from one center to the next. This is something I would definitely repeat, but I do wonder about what might be added to help students remember some of the interesting nuggets of information they learned along the way. I wouldn’t want to add too much writing because that slows down the gathering of background knowledge, but it would be nice to have some means for remembering a few facts.

If you have ideas or you try this and add something new, please leave a comment.

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
Georgia.
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
animals.
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

http://www.wsbtv.com/videos/news/hall-county-schools-cancels-after-hours-activities/vCHZXM/

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.

Thinglink Regions of Georgia with 2nd Grade

regions for thinglinkSecond grade has been studying the regions of Georgia as part of their social studies standards.  I pulled multiple resources for them to use including informational books, Georgia stories, posters of animals and plants, and regions of Georgia posters.  In each classroom, students were placed into groups to research a specific region.  This was built into both writing time and social studies.  Students were supposed to use their research to write a script for a regions of Georgia commercial.  Their job was to convince someone to visit that region by telling about the land, animals, plants, and things to do in that region.  During some of these sessions, students came to the media center in small groups for research support.   I worked with them both on researching facts and also writing scripts.  Finally in class, students designed backdrops for their commercials.

In the library, students came in small groups to film their commercials.  We filmed in our studio and used one of our fusion flip tables to tape the backdrops to.  I used an iPad to record the students acting out their commercial.  Our iPad had a dual shotgun microphone plugged in to improve the sound quality.  It was interesting to see the students’ different ideas for how to do a commercial.  Some incorporated puppets, creative slogans, and even a breakaway door.

I took each video and put it into iMovie, uploaded it to Youtube, and then attached it to a Thinglink.  For our Thinglink image, I took a photograph of a map of GA which is found on the floor just outside of the 2nd grade rooms.  Thinglink allows you to attach multiple links to one image.  I’ve used Thinglink for individual projects, but I liked that this use of Thinglink pulled all of the videos into one easy to reach location.  I shared the link with teachers so that they could see the progress being made toward finishing all of the videos.  They pulled the Thinglink up on their boards and let students watch the videos that had been made so far.  It created a great review tool for where all of the regions of GA are and also allowed classes to hear the research that had been gathered in the other classrooms.  We will make a QR code for the Thinglink so that visitors with mobile devices can scan the code and visit the project.  photo (1)

This was a great first quarter project.  I think it is a stepping stone toward the next technology-related project that 2nd grade will do.  My regret is that I wish that more students could have been involved in actually creating the final product.  I wish that I had at least had a few students from each room sit and watch or help make the Thinglink.

Take a look at their work in progress here.

Regions of Georgia Commercials

For the past 4 years, I’ve collaborated with 2nd grade on a Regions of Georgia center rotation.  We usually setup one center for each region of Georgia and the teachers and I lead each region.  Over a several days, the students rotate through the stations, and the main goal has been for students to gain more understanding of the regions.

This year we decided to try something new.  As a culminating project, students were placed into groups in every classroom and assigned one of the regions of Georgia.  The goal was for students to work together to create a commercial advertising their region.  They included things like land features, attractions, animal life, plant life, and persuasive reasons to visit their region.

Once scripts were written and a few props were made, students came to the library to record their commercials using the iPads.  Our temporary media center has several small rooms attached to it, so 3 groups at a time were able to record their commercials.  We used students to do the actual filming as much as possible, although a few student teachers and the classroom teachers did some of the filming.

Since our district decided to open Youtube to both teachers and students, uploading the videos took a matter of seconds rather than the hours it took when we would have to download the videos onto a PC, convert the videos to WMV, and then edit the videos in Movie Maker, and upload to Youtube at home.

Instantly uploading the videos also allowed me to show the next classes what the previous class had done.  As they watched videos from their peers, they critiqued them by thinking about what they would congratulate the class on and what they would want to improve about the videos if the groups had a chance to record again.  This surfaced a lot of the reminders that I would have given anyway, but it meant more coming from the active thinking of the students.

This was 2nd grade’s first time using the iPads to film.  It certainly wasn’t perfect, and there were many logistics that could have been better.  However, overall I would call it a success that will hopefully inform the future video projects we do together in 2nd grade.

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Take a look at their work below.