What’s New at the Zoo? Part 2

Here is the part 1 if you missed it.

I meant to write part 2 right after part 1 but you know how it goes in the world of teaching and life. Things just get busy. The project has continued on and has gone very well because it was so engaging for the students.

Luckily, I have a friend, Roger Torbert (@ZooEducation),  who is the Zoo’s Vice President of Education. He agreed to be a part of our project and has been very helpful! I talked to my principal and asked if it was okay for him to write her a letter asking for help from a class at our school.  The good news for anyone who is interested in this pbl unit, zoos are very helpful.  I have another friend,  Louise Morgan (@MrsMorgansClass ), who is doing this pbl unit too. She contacted her local zoo in Texas and the zoo’s educational director LOVED the idea. They are helping her as well.

Here is the letter my friend wrote.



In case you can’t read the letter (I have tried to upload a clear copy 4 times.), it essentially asks for a class or grade level to recommend an animal that they zoo does not already have. They can research animals and then make their recommendations from their research.

This kick-started our project ( entry event)  and the class was SUPER excited about studying animals. They were even more interested because there was a purpose behind the research.

We came up with the driving question from the letter.

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

After posting the driving question, we discussed what we would need to know and what would the zoo want to know about the chosen animal.  Here is the list the students decided would be important to know about the animal:

  • habitat
  • diet
  • size
  • animal group
  • predator/prey
  • did it live alone or in a group
  • would the zoo need to build an exhibit or do they already have a place for the animal

I told the students I would use their list to create a research document to help them with their research.

Meanwhile, I researched a lot of zoos that had kid-oriented websites and that had informational links about the zoo’s animals.  I put all of these links on our kidblog. Here is the link to the post I created to help with the start of their research.  I also printed out a list of the animals at the Birmingham Zoo. I found the animal list on their website.  I also collected lots of animal books and placed them in a basket to be used for research.

I gave the students a beginning research page to help narrow the choices but not have them pick the first animal they read about.  I asked them to find 10 animals from the zoo websites or from the animal books.  The first thing they had to do was check the Birmingham Zoo animal list. If the zoo had it, they had to find another animal.  Here is the link to this first research page.

The students devoured the zoo websites and books.  They found 10 animals they loved and then each student had the hard task to just choose one to research.

Part 3 will be about their individual research and also about the totally fun standard-filled rabbit trails that happen in project-based learning.






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