What’s New at the Zoo? part 1

Last year, my team and our enrichment teacher created this unit that would combine our science standards on animals with our new standards in writing. BUT I had only read about project-based learning and was a little nervous to try it.  After completing my first pbl unit , I was ready to try another one with my class.  I loved what it did for my students!

Project Overview: We will collaborate with the local zoo.  The zoo will write a letter to the class asking for their help in choosing the next animal for the zoo.  The students need to find an animal not currently at the zoo and research this animal focusing on the animal group, behavior, size and body covering along with diet and range.  The students will write a nonfiction article about their animal. The students will then be put in groups. The groups will choose one of their researched animals as the group’s animal. The group will create a presentation stating their opinions why that is the best animal for the zoo.  They will also provide reasons for their opinions.  The zoo will choose one animal from the five groups. Then the groups will design an zoo exhibit/enclosure for that one animal. The exhibit will need to meet the needs of the zoo and the animal.

Driving Question:  In your opinion, which animal should the Birmingham Zoo choose as its next animal? 

Here are the content standards that will be covered in this unit:

Identify characteristics of animals, including behavior, size, and body covering
Writing 2.1
Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g.,because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.
Writing 2.2
Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section.
I know students love studying animals so this will be a high interest unit for them.   A field trip to the zoo was planned in the middle of this unit. This will allow students to look at exhibits while learning about animals.
Part 2 will focus on the beginning of the project and an extra learning event that just happened.  This is why I love pbl. The students take it in directions you never planned but it helped  me cover even more standards. It happened naturally and was student led.

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