First Grade Animal Research Projects
An Exciting and Collaborative Academic Milestone
The process behind the First Grade Animal Research Projects is a fun, intentional, innovative, collaborative, and engaging one. Early in 2018, each student chose three animals they felt they would be interested in researching. With the help of first grade teachers Ms. Shea and Mrs. Caiozzo, students then chose one animal they would research, write about, and build. At the end of the project, students reflected upon what happened when two people chose the same animal during the onset of the project– there was lots of compromise in these cases and ultimately, the students acknowledged that they ended up enjoying their selected animal!
Research, Discovery, and Writing Phases
With support and guidance from first grade teachers and our school’s librarian, Mrs. Wong, students dove deeply into learning more about their animals. Through guided research online, in books, and through discussions about predators, prey, and habitats in Mrs. Lent’s science classes, students began to gather pertinent facts about their animals and built that information into graphic organizers. From there, students began crafting sentences for the written portion of their project and also engaged in an editing phase. This careful process ensured that students were pulling strong facts from their research materials, while also learning to craft unique sentences. In fact, when each student read his or her writing out loud, it was apparent that each sentence was crafted with individual tone and flair!
To further students’ understanding of their animals across the curriculum, French teacher Madame Niose guided students in learning information about their animals in French. For a creative twist, students created puppets of their animals in French class and held puppet shows.
Supported by their eighth grade buddies and art teacher Sara Sanford, one artistic phase of this project included first graders excitedly visiting the Upper School Art Studio to build the armature of their chosen animal. Students then crafted and painted their own paper-mache animals during time in art class. Through creative collaboration and lots of discussion, first grade classes then combined and worked in small groups to create shared habitats for their animals. These shared habitats – complete with wonderfully crafted and unique animals – were a big hit during the Gallery Walk!
Throughout this project, one of their first major ones at Applewild, students are carefully guided through the research, writing, typing, designing, and creating phases of the project. They are intentionally given choice and freedom in the project to encourage and inspire their individual creativity. To enhance the students’ experience, homeroom and special subject teachers collaborate, ensuring that students are learning about their animals and reflecting upon the process across disciplines. At the end of the project, first graders reflect on their work and what they learned about themselves from completing this challenging, multi-step process. All of the first graders demonstrated a great deal of pride and enthusiasm for their work and their products!