Curiosity, Creativity, and Critical ThinkingBy Lisa Vardi, Director of Cross Divisional Curriculum
"I need lots of patience and a good eraser!"
A hand-made sign, Welcome to the Animal Kingdom, stood at the front of the BDC Studio Theater on Friday, December 7, alerting visitors to expect a variety of animals—including animal art, robots, slide presentations of research, and clay dioramas of animals in their habitats.
The showcase marked the end of a three-week interdisciplinary study of animals that involved third graders' art, science, language arts, and robotics/design classes.
Third graders in Lower School Teacher Kendall Strickler's class identified animals of interest and explored them by researching a wide array of wildlife. Students studied anteaters, cheetahs, elephants, koalas, Nile crocodiles, prairie dogs, prairie falcons, tapirs, sloths, and wolves. Ms. Strickler collaborated with Lower School colleagues to create an interdisciplinary opportunity for her students, modeling how collaboration can create excitement around teaching and learning. Students took their work very seriously carefully carrying their animal-research portfolios from classroom to classroom.
To help students research, Strickler introduced them to non-fiction sources and note-taking techniques to construct Google Slide presentations. Students read a balance of fiction and non-fiction materials, and the project allowed them to consult online databases as well.
Mark Walter, Lower School STEM teacher, showed students structures and features of animals throughout the animal kingdom. He even invited a female red-tailed hawk, Skadi, and her trainer to class, giving students an even closer look at the animal world.
Art Teacher Lindy Russell-Heymann guided the students on rendering scientific drawings using shapes in nature. With colored pencils, students sketched vivid drawings, focusing on representing the physical features and proportions of animals. "I need lots of patience and a good eraser!" said one student.
Lower School Tech Coordinator Nate Gordon helped students identify a specific behavior that represented their animals, and assisted students in designing a physical robot structure and dash-dot code to create animal robots that could move. Gordon also challenged students to focus on animal behaviors that contributed to survival and adaptation in the animal's habitat.
"The students displayed a lot of excitement throughout the three-week project," Strickler said. What they learned was evident in a variety of ways, and they were proud to become resident experts about an aspect of the animal kingdom. This was yet another extraordinary learning opportunity at Bullis, and an excellent example of collaboration in action among teachers and students.