Second-graders at Fairbanks Road Elementary School in Churchville-Chili recently studied animal adaptations and life cycles.
For several weeks in February, the students were asking questions, researching, welcoming visiting experts, creating habitat in the hallways and presenting their findings and conclusions on regional animal species, including black bears, foxes, caribou, reindeer and beavers.
“We began our session by discussing what we thought we knew about foxes,” said Fairbanks Road Elementary School teacher Bethany Alesio. “Then, we created questions to help guide our research. How big are they? Are foxes nocturnal? What do they eat? We read articles and books on fox habitats, life cycle and behavior. Students took what they learned and collaborated to create a life-like red fox environment in our hall.”
“Kids worked in small groups, learning how to use online resources like National Geographic for Kids,” said Rose Heppner. “They discovered how Venn diagrams can be used to show logical relationships and produced slide presentations and custom books on their results.”
“In the process of exploring beavers, we took a virtual field trip to Yellowstone National Park and spoke with a park ranger,” said Jamie Snook. “The kids also created a beaver habitat model in the hallway, including a beaver dam and a lodge containing real sticks cut down by beavers.”
“My students learned about different types of trees that are important to bear habitat, saw the connection between bears and beavers and created a life-sized black bear in the hall. One of our parents, Mr. Podszebka, an avid outdoorsman, visited to help us gain an understanding of bears in their environment and the adaptations that help them communicate and survive,” said Brooke Donnelly.
On Feb. 15, Donnelly’s class also welcomed Betsy Ukeritis, an inter-regional environmental educator from the Department of Conservation. Ukeritis was peppered with questions about different kinds of bears and on how people can coexist safely with them.
The educational experience is part of the Churchville-Chili Central School District’s Project Based Learning philosophy. Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a question, problem or challenge. The method combines various educational disciplines, from math and science to reading, writing and art.