Monday, November 21, 2016

The Eagle Project: A Student-Led, Interest Based Inquiry

I work really hard to listen and observe the kids to see what they are interested in.  I like to use their interests to guide the curriculum.  I have found that when the curriculum stems from their interests, they naturally use the literacy, math, and 21st century skills needed as they explore and investigate.

From the beginning of this year, the kids had been showing an interest in bird nests.  Every time we went out on the playground, they were making nests.  They also started gathering every stick we could find in order to build a more sturdy nest in our classroom since the one on the playground disappeared every day.

Since we were still building a learning community in our room, I observed and put this on the back burner to revisit later, hoping the interest would hold.  It did!!  I put out an invitation to look closer and see what they noticed about the nests before we started building one.

I also put out an invitation to create nests in our clay area.

I predicted that maybe our nest inquiry would lead into an interest in birds so I also set out an invitation to learn more about birds to see what would happen.  A few kids were interested and enjoyed it and learned from it, but not a majority of the kids.  Birds would not be a large scale inquiry.  I decided to stick with nests and see where it would take us.

As we started a See/Think/Wonder Chart about nests, a picture of a bald eagle on its nest was noticed on our promethium board. All of a sudden, all of their questions and wonders were centered around these Bald Eagles.  You could feel their excitement as we discussed and wondered about these amazing birds of prey! I asked if they wanted to explore these eagles further and they were very excited about the prospect!

We watched many videos and live cams showing us eagles.  The kids never tired of watching these!

Based on their wonders, we created four expert teams.  The Nest Experts (for those who were originally into the nest making), The Eagle Experts, The Eagle Family Experts, and The Eagle Prey Experts.

I put out paints and clay in our Art Studio Area that would inspire them to use art to show what they notice about eagles.  I loved how many tried to show that they noticed the curved beak of the eagle!

The Eagle Experts learned that an eagle can get up to 43 inches high and have a 7 1/2 foot wing span!  They measured out the width and height of the eagle and I drew it out for them.  These birds can be massive!  They were amazed at how big they were! They enjoyed seeing how much bigger the eagles wing spans were compared to them!

They then looked closer at the feather colors and used ripped paper to create the long feathers of the wings and short feathers on its belly.  They learned that they have curved beaks and sharp talons to hunt their prey with and learned the terms predator/prey and what they mean.

The nest experts used the sticks we had been collecting and started out by throwing the sticks everywhere on a little branch I provided for them. They soon realized this wasn't going to work as all the sticks started falling off.  I loved listening to them talk about it and problem solve.  I heard terms and phrased such as "team" and "We won't give up!"  They asked to look up a picture on my iPad. I had them look closely at an eagle nest to see what they noticed.  They noticed the sticks went around the outside in a circle-like way and there was grass in the middle to make it soft.  They then watched a video on the computer of an eagle making a nest.  They noticed that she tried many places to put that one stick before she decided on where it would stay.  When they went back to the nest, they were very careful on their placement of sticks!

It was very hard and I still had to wire some pieces together to keep it from falling apart.  This team learned how amazing it is that birds can make such strong nests with just two feet and a beak!  They came to the conclusion that humans are not as good as birds when it comes to making a good sturdy nest, but we did our best and it turned out great, though fragile! They created a "Stop! Do not touch" sign.

The Eagle Family Experts wanted to show what a typical eagle family looked like. They learned that the mom eagle is bigger than the dad eagle and that the mom have one to three eggs at a time.  Both help keep the eggs warm and take care of/feed the babies. Two friends chose white clay to make an egg. One put a crack in it as though it were getting ready to hatch.

After studying the colors on the birds, they used paper tubes to create the eagle family.  They made sure the mother was bigger and that her and the father were brown with white heads and yellow beaks.  The babies were fluffy gray with black beaks.

They prey team used the computer and researched the type of animals that Eagles hunted and decided to use clay to show some examples.  

We created a web map in our room to organize our wonders and what we learned.

Here are the finished displays to show what we had learned during our inquiry!  The kids labeled and added the facts that we learned around our large eagle.

It was amazing to see where the students took this!  It was entirely based on their interests and changed with them!  It took a little while to develop into a large scale inquiry.  Not all of their interests go that far, and that is okay.  This easily could have been a small scale nest inquiry done by a small group!  I just had to listen to them, pay attention, and be willing to set out opportunities for them to explore further based on what I observed!  So far, I have noticed two other very heavy interests shared by the class as a majority.  Superheroes, and creating sounds and rhythm in different ways.  I have noticed these interests since the beginning of the year and those interests continue to be strong, so while many other small scale inquiries may be going on, after the holidays, we may start one of these!  I can't wait to see where the kids will take those interests! 

Here are some other things going on in our room! In math we are learning about making numbers up to ten in different ways to develop their number sense.  

They are also working hard to be able to write their numbers to 20.  Some are even trying to get to 100!  It took this friend 3 white boards to get to 80! Her goal is 100!

A lot is going on literacy as kids are getting very excited about how much they have learned to read and write! In writing all of the kids are working on different writing skills from drawing a story to letter/sound correspondence to spaces and punctuation!  In reading we are focusing on learning as many sight words as we can and noticing blends in words.

In our science area, the kids have expressed a new interest in potions.  I set up their first potion experiment for them.  This station will continue through the holidays.

In engineering, the blocks have been largely ignored in favor of K'nex!  After reading the book "The Most Magnificent Thing," the kids have enjoyed creating their own magnificent things and showing the class what they do and how they work!  Lots of creative and critical thinking are going on here!

Stay tuned to see what will happen next in our classroom!  You can never tell what it will be!


  1. Thank you for continuing to share the work you are doing with your students! I continue to be inspired by what you are doing in your classroom! I LOVE how you weave all areas of the curriculum into your inquiry projects! The "provocations" you leave out for your students to discover are SO creative too!!! This is VERY challenging for me...coming up with really good ideas to spark and keep the interest level going. In the spring, I inquired about the possibility of visiting your classroom, but just ran out of time:( If possible, I would still like to visit, I am in the Cleveland area and know you are located in Dayton area. Thank you again for all that you do:) Happy New Year:)

    1. Hi KK!
      I would love for you to come visit!! Let me know when you can! I get a ton of inspiration for provocations from Pinterest and from Instagram. Mostly Instagram. Even if you don't post anything, open up an account and find me at darlamyersclass. If you look at who I follow (theres around 125) follow them also and you will be amazed at the inspiration!!
      Darla Myers

  2. Thank you for sharing your eagle investigation with us! We are so inspired we would love to know what literature you used to enhance your study!

    1. Hi Ashley! Most of the literature I used were general books about birds that I got from scholastic book orders. We mostly observed eagles on live feeds and YouTube or I found videos with facts about eagles for kids on YouTube. Other facts we got by researching on the iPad.

  3. I'm swooning big time over your wonderfully creative provocations and getting some major inspiration! Thanks for all you do. Your students hit the lottery getting you as their teacher.

  4. Hi I just found your blog and in so inspired! Where did you get the materials for your math provocation where they pull a number and build it in different ways? Specifically the wooden sticks and 10 frame tray with blue spheres? Do you have a favorite place you purchase your materials?

    1. Hi Rachel!
      Thank you! I got the ten frame from Montessori Restore's Easy Shop over a year ago. I love it and would love to get another. They are a little pricey so I figured I would spread them out! The wool balls also came from them. The glass beads and craft sticks came from either the dollar store, Michaels or Hobby Lobby. I seem to get most of my materials from those stores or thrift shops. I am always looking for sales!

  5. Your blog is very useful for me,Thanks for your sharing.