Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Animal Research Projects!

I was first introduced to the idea of creating Animal Dioramas when my son (who was a first grader at the time), brought home a shoebox and a basic instruction sheet from his teacher to create a diorama of any animal and its natural habitat.  Being a mom, I was so excited about the opportunity to help my son create something he was so excited about!  Being a teacher, I knew that I had to do a project like this with my own students, but I had no idea where to start.

I shared the idea with my second grade colleagues, and they all loved it!  We worked together to create a basic letter to send home to parents, but struggled to find just the right way to show students exactly what the project is and how to do it.  (I don't know about your class, but I have to break everything into very small steps for most of my kiddos!)  So, I decided to create a unit that would have everything you could ever need for doing a project like this.  Trust me, if you want to do this project with your class - this unit will save you SO much time and make your life so much easier!  

To start off, our science focus for the entire month is ANIMALS!  We spent time reading about animals and life cycles in our science books, and this week we are learning all about animal habitats. I found some really amazing videos on habitats on our district portal, but you can also find some really cute and informative videos here (around 3-5 minutes each):

Earlier this week, I sent home a letter to parents to let them know that we will be starting our dioramas soon! I also asked parents to send shoe boxes to school with their child, if possible.  You may want to send home your parent letter 1-2 weeks before you intend to send home the assignment. I like to send everything home with the student on a Friday, so they have the weekend to start gathering supplies and begin working on their project.  I usually give students 3-4 weeks to complete the project at home.  My student dioramas are due on May 6th, which gives me plenty of time to have them present their projects and have them on display for our Open House the following week!  After that, I'll be happy to send them home with the students.  

This is what I sent home with the students to kick off our Animal Diorama and Research Report Project! (Of course I stapled them together so the pages didn't go flying all over the place when they went outside, but for the purpose of this photo - I laid them out so you can see them!)

That's it!  Easy-peasy!  Just send the directions for the project, the animal research report poster, the student grading rubric, and the presentation outline home and have your students work on their projects on their own time.  My second grade team and I decided to have one day where we all will keep our classrooms open or an hour or so after school so students can come in and work on their projects, use classroom supplies, get help with research, etc.

We will be doing the majority of the research in the classroom, and will be writing the research reports as well.  I just prefer to do that part with the students, so I can guide them through the writing process.  The majority of our research will be done on the internet during our computer lab time.  I've found these websites to be VERY helpful and easy for kids to find the information they need for their reports!
While we are in the computer lab, I had the students record their research information on this sheet:

Once the students had recorded all of their information, we spent the next day taking their key ideas and putting them into complete sentences about their animals.

I also have a simpler version if that works better for your class!

From there, the students would write their final draft on a separate sheet of paper (also included in the unit).  You can find all of these pages, grading rubrics, parent letters, as well as a how-to instructional presentation to show your students how to do the project HERE!  Now, the only question is... what will your students create?