Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Our Pet Projects: What Living Things Need

Our caring project for the local pet shelter let to an interest in different kinds of pets so I had the kids draw all the animals they could think of that could be pets.  Many had some interesting ideas of what could be a pet!

This lead to the discussion about the difference between a wild animal and a pet. We created this Venn Diagram to show what we learned. I thought this was going to be pretty cut and dry, but they really dug deep in their thinking!  Because of the discussions and debates, it took us two days to create this diagram!

Once we figured out what could be a pet, the kids picked a pet to become an expert in.  We had experts in cats, dogs, guinea pigs, bunnies, turtles, snakes, and parrots. The focus of each expert group was to figure out what their pet needed to survive, be happy and healthy and create a habitat to show this.  The idea for these habitat projects came from the amazing Ms. Rogers and Ms West at Their pet inquiry was amazing! Teacher friends, these teachers from Dayton are inspiring! Check their blog out!  This covered our science standard of what living things need to survive. Along with this we learned the difference between a living and non living things based on what living things need.  Figuring out what their pet needed to be happy covered our social studies standard of knowing the different between needs and wants.  Their pet might want a toy to be happy, but does not need it to survive.

Our pet expert teams got to work!  First they made a web map as they became familiar with their pet through background knowledge, books and videos.

After looking at the needs section that showed what they need to be healthy and happy, they gathered materials and started creating their projects.  Their amazing teamwork showed me how far they had come this year!  If a problem came up, after a little initial frustration, they problem solved and figured it out with out my help! Here are some pictures showing them working on their projects.

While some were working on their projects, other kids were creating pet habitats in our building areas and pet art in our art studio!

The kid's parents emailed me pictures of their pets and then they got to tell us all about their pets and how they take care of it.

We got a class pet also!  How could we do a pet inquiry without our own pet? I would do anything to have a guinea pig, bunny or tortoise for a class pet. So many science standards would be covered through that experience.  Unfortunately we are not allowed. Maybe someday....Meanwhile, I got them a fish. They came up with a list (which they turned into a poem) of what our fish will need to be happy and healthy. Pardon the awful handwriting.  I was writing quickly!

He looked like Rainbow Fish and I thought for sure that is what they would name him, but they picked...Steven!

Since they knew he couldn't have a friend in the tank with him (because he would kill it) one friend made him a friend for when we are gone!

I set up and opportunity for them to look closer at him and record what they noticed.

I brought my pet Russian Tortoise in for them to play with!  His name is also Steven, believe it or not!  My son named him when he was 7! He loves coming in to play with the kids and is very active with them!

The predicted what his favorite food was!  It ended up being the green bean with the apple being a close second.

They created mazes and playgrounds for him to play in.

They created sculptures of him.

They created observational drawings of him.

Wrote him love notes.

They also just enjoyed his company.

We also got a visit from one of our friends little pet guinea pigs!

Finally, the projects were finished.
A dog habitat

A bunny habitat

A turtle habitat

A snake habitat

A cat habitat

A guinea pig habitat

A parrot habitat
The kids decided to do a presentation so they wrote books about their pet and practiced a speaking part for the presentation.  They presented to two classes and then to their parents.  This is where the true pride of their accomplishments happens.  You could tell just by looking at them how proud they were of their projects and presentation.  This was their first presentation so it was a really big deal for them.  It was hard work, but in the end, totally worth it for all of us!

After the presentation the parents mingled, took pictures, looked closer at the projects, listened to their child read their pet book, and had a snack with us.

Since this school year is almost finished, this was our end of year celebration and it was such a great time together!  I am going to miss these little friends and their wonderful families!  But I'm going to try not to think about that until the last day and just enjoy every last moment with them.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Caring for Homeless Animals: A Caring Project

Our school was doing a school wide focus on caring for the community.  We had decided to focus on supporting our local pet shelter SICSA and a local service dog trainer.  Our driving question was "How can we help SICSA and the service dog trainer help animals?"  I read this true story about a dog named Nigel to the kids and it had a powerful impact on them.

It is about a dog who was not loved or taken care of very well by his owner.  They don't go into a lot of detail about this part of this dog's life, but the picture is powerful. It shows a dog who is skin and bones chained up in a yard full of trash. Someone sees him and calls the local shelter.  It goes on to show how the local shelter helped him heal physically, took care of him and then found him a forever family.  The dog is well loved and taken care of by his new family but gets stressed when the children leave for school.  They solve the problem by taking him to the local library for kids to read to him.  It is based on a true story and really hit home in a child-appropriate way how a shelter works and even introduced them to what a service dog can do.

We were doing a school wide fundraiser for SICSA and a local service dog trainer.  The class who won the most money was going to have a dog from SICSA come visit their class. After reading that book, the kids brought in money every single day.  I was blown away by the generosity of them and their families. We brought in the most money by far and you could tell it was more about helping the shelter and the service dog trainer than getting to see the dog.  I was so proud of them!

We had talked about other things that we could do to help the local shelter and decided on creating cat toys for the homeless cats to play with.  We went online and picked out a few that they felt they could create and that I knew we had materials for. They made toys that would exercise their bodies and brains. Here are some of their homemade cat toys.

TP tubes decorated with treats inside.  The cats have to use their brains to figure out how to get them out and they have to exercise as they try to get them out. 
These are to give the cats exercise as they bat them around and they roll and bounce so that they have to chase them.
Wine corks with feathers duck taped to them for cats to play with for exercise.
TP tubes in a tissue box with treats in some of them.  The cat has to figure out how to get the treats out.
Bottles with treats in them. Take the caps off and as the cats roll them around, treats randomly fall out.
Fishing poles for the workers to play and interact with the cats to give them exercise.

Here are all of the cat toys they made.

The day SICSA came,  we gathered everything including some soft, comfy blankets that one of our families also donated for the animals beds and took them to the gym to present them along with everything the other classes made for them. Some made thank you cards for the volunteers and posters showing new families how to take care of their new pet.

Unfortunately, I was not here the day that SICSA and the service dog came so a substitute got to have all the fun of seeing their joy so I do not have any pictures of that day, but here is a picture from Mrs. Addington of the puppy that SICSA brought for the kids to pet!  What a cutie!  I hope he finds a forever family soon!

This was such a wonderful way to give the kids a chance to show empathy for those who cannot care for themselves.  This right here is true project based learning.  Projects with a purpose!  Projects that actually solve a problem or helps the community.  Because of that purpose, the kids were very invested in it.  They desired to help these animals out and did it through helping SICSA and a local service dog trainer.  If I would have started this sooner, I would have spent more time with them learning about service dogs and what they can do.  We had some discussions, but didn't have time to dig deeper. After we finished, the kids were still interested in pets and their needs. It was showing in their discussions and play, so we decided to dig a little deeper and learn more about what pets need to survive, be healthy and happy. That will be in the next post!