Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Homes and Habitats

Citizens of the World

Students in Pre-kindergarten and 3rd grade have been thinking about natural habitats and caring for the world in ways both large and small. The investigations in these two classrooms emerged from very different learning goals, but they share a number of elements that illustrate the ways in which curriculum and skills build from year to year in our school.

In Pre-K, the children have been studying sculpture as an art form. They spent an exciting day at the DeCordova Museum’s outdoor sculpture park, where they had the opportunity to see a collection of large works of art made from a wide variety of materials. At school, they watched part of a film about the artwork of Andy Goldsworthy, who makes beautiful creations from natural materials. Before Thanksgiving, the class read A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle. In the story, Hermit Crab has outgrown his home and must find a larger place to live. The shell he chooses is the right fit, but it is quite austere. Fortunately, Hermit Crab’s friends and neighbors provide colorful decoration, protection and adornment for the new home. After reading the book, the teachers presented the children with Styrofoam bowls and decorating items to build their own houses for Hermit Crab. Sitting around the classroom tables, the children built doors, balconies, and windows. They shared ideas, elaborated on their designs and, as Mrs. Zamore said, “learned about real things through fantasy.”

At the other end of the school, our third graders are immersed in a study of biomes—ecologically similar regions of the world characterized by climate, soil type, animals and plants. Each student chose one biome for a research project that involved note-taking, oral presentation, and teaching a lesson to the rest of the class. For one component of the unit, the children composed riddles and challenged their classmates to figure out which biome was being described. The students also created “biomes in a box” using shoeboxes to construct three-dimensional representations of their biomes, including at least three plants and three animals, as well as other details to illustrate the scenes. Just as their younger counterparts had done, these students helped each other with design concepts (multi-story rainforests and animals with moving parts were admired and adapted in several models), and made use of a variety of materials to show what they had learned. Ms. Twarog described this unit as a wonderful opportunity to emphasize the concept of global citizenship, and of our responsibility to care for and understand the diversity of plant and animal life on the planet. From his home in the marine biome, Hermit Crab can feel comforted by the stewardship of our students.