Last month, our research led us deep as we dove into the zones of the ocean! We had a blast with ocean exploration. The students were REALLY interested in the Hadal Zone and all the mysterious & “scary” animals that live there.
This month, students are exploring animal habitats. Living in Belize is optimal for the study of animals since we are literally surrounded by animal habitats. From lagoon to sea, broad-leaf-forest to rainforest, river to savannah, many animals call Belize their home.
We started off this inquiry the same way we started our mangrove exploration unit. Check out: Student Led Inquiry in a Multi-Age Setting
First, we discussed what a habitat is. Next, we brainstormed the things we knew about habitats.
I recorded our ideas on an anchor chart.
Next, we wrote down questions we had about habitats. The students use their “I wonder” sheets.
Most of the student’s questions were patterned as follows…
Where does a/n ________________ live?
Next, we dove into some literature. Now, this was teacher planned. A friend donated a few old curriculum books to me in the beginning of the year and I found a whole unit on animal habitats.
We don’t have access to a library here in Placencia, so I utilize all the resources I’m given.
I started by reading, “The Night of the Pufflings” and “Red Robin, Fly Up”
I have to mention that a crazy, fateful event occurred prior to reading the stories about birds. I called off sick from teaching with the flu and that same day a little morning bird flew into our house and was trapped in our attic for hours! I was totally freaked out (so was the bird, obviously). As I spent time “internet spiraling while sick,” and I found this idea from Nurture Store: Word Bird .
We completed word birds the day I got back from being sick. We were able to reuse some old cardboard we had and it was so fun to come up with a story and map of “George’s Journey.” My students range from 5-8 years old and this project was easy to differentiate. Some students drew maps showing their birds journey and others created stories. I also dictated stories for younger students who could not express themselves in writing.
You can incorporate transition words in this activity by encouraging older students to explain what happened using the words: First, Next, Then and Finally/Last. I was impressed with the way these birds turned out. I only wish we had more time to decorate our birds. See example below:
During read aloud time for each story, we co-created anchor charts for each book and discussed the title, genre, setting, characters, problem & solution for each story.
The students also discussed the habitats of each bird. We reflected on questions, such as: Were the habitats in the story similar or different to where we live? Why? Why not? What types of birds live here in Placencia? Belize? Connecting place to stories not only increases comprehension, it also allows students to use their knowledge to make sense of the world in all its complexities.
Next, we created Venn diagrams to compare and contrast each story. The students worked in pairs and small groups for this.
We discussed how the story “The Night of the Pufflings” takes place in Iceland, and “Red Robin, Fly Up” takes place in New York. We found this out by reading the Author’s Note in the back of the book. “Red Robin, Fly Up,” is written by a mother who was inspired by her son finding a baby bird. Of course the story is partially fiction, as the boy brings the baby bird many places, like a barber shop, to help the little robin learn how to fly.
The students then brought out their main lesson books and created their own illustrations of the puffling and red robin. I encouraged them to include the habitat in their pictures as I created alongside them. See my example below.
This month the students are also using habitat journals I created using photos from the beautiful lagoon which surrounds the land where I live. The purpose of these field journals is to record our observations of the habitats we have around our school. We will discuss the diverse animals that live on the beach and think about the incredible amount of insects and animals that call even the tiniest area their homes. Or the tiniest of animals that cover SO much ground. Some interesting finds already include ants and termites…
We are only a week and a half in to our habitat exploration and I look forward to seeing where our next learning experience will lead us. We will take the rest of April to explore habitats.
Here are a few extended learning opportunities I’ve been reflecting on:
–Continue reading literature on various animals with habitats around the world
—Create a large mural of habitats in Belize using large paper & cardboard (similiar idea to the ocean zones above)
—Research an animal with a peer or in a small group and create a presentation about it (poster, song, short play, etc.)
—Create your own animal & habitat…including adaptations that help your animal to survive
—Field trips around the community to experience different habitats
—Classroom performance about habitats. Students can create a play to show their understanding of what a habitat is and the various animals that live in different habitats. Students can perform their play in front of parents & friends. Great for oral language, confidence and “showing what they know.” I love performances!!
—Create a survey and take data (asking friends & family) on questions, “What is your favorite animal?” “Which habitat would you like to live in?”
–I don’t use much technology in the classroom (due to lack of funding), but occasionally I like to teach using a video or allow students to use a computer to research something I can’t find in a book. Some videos I’d like students to watch are:
I’d love to hear how you explore habitats in your classroom!