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Monday, April 14, 2014

Can We Make 2nd Grade Animal Research Relevant?

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. Recently a wonderful colleague teaching first grade started experimenting with inquiry circles for ocean research. As I was working a book fair and looking through the 2015 Illinois Children's Choice Award nominees, I picked up one of my favorites, A Little Book Of Sloth. A few minutes later, NatGeo tweeted one of Lucy Cooke's adorable sloth videos: Special Squeaky Sloth Video. On the NatGeo page, there was a link provided to the ZSL EDGE site where there is information about extraordinarily unusual threatened species and how you can support these conservation efforts. So that made me think about transforming the current animal reports our second grade students do in the spring every year. 

A Little Book of Sloth

What if we still did the same reports, but added another component. Instead of each child doing a different animal in isolation, what if each classroom was divided into an animal group? What if each child still individually researched an animal of interest in that group, but as a class researched one threatened animal listed on the EDGE and created a campaign to raise awareness, raise funds, etc. Wouldn't that make the research they were doing more meaningful? What if they included a wondering paragraph in their individual report about the importance of the role of their animal in the ecology and how things would change if it were out of balance? 

I think, regardless of how much the students do enjoy the traditional reports, we can teach them to engage in learning activities that aren't just enjoyable and for acquiring knowledge, but that research serves many purposes, and it should always contribute to making the world a better place.