Illinois Animal Expo!
I have done an inquiry unit for science for four years now. The first year I did it, the students all picked their own animal and worked in small groups to learn about the habitats, life cycle, food web, appearance, and adaptations of animals, which tied to our fourth grade Illinois learning standards for science. The second year was after I participated in the Lake Guardian workshop on Lake Ontario and I chose to focus on fish from the Great Lakes region because I had made a commitment with the workshop to integrate Great Lakes literacy into my curriculum. As Illinois has shifted to the Next Generation Science Standards, I have wrapped the inquiry unit around the standard that students would be able to “construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.” The other fourth grade teacher did an expo in her room last year on animals from Illinois, so we decided to merge our inquiry units and do a shared Illinois Animal Expo this year.
We worked with our students for six weeks, teaching them about ecosystems, life cycles, habitats, adaptations, food webs, and a host of other topics that supported this standard. My students presented their research with presentations using either Google Slides or posters. After working on the projects day after day for several weeks, the day of the expo arrived! Teachers from other grade levels signed up to visit our rooms, and parents and members of the community, including the communication specialist for the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, were invited to come, as well. The fourth graders presented their reports over the course of an hour in the morning and another hour in the afternoon. While they shared, I got to walk around listening to the hubbub of excited voices sharing what they had learned and snapping pictures as my students answered questions to inquiring minds.
It was a fantastic day! Below is a slide show of all the many pictures I took of students sharing with classmates, friends, family, teachers, administrators, and even a guest from the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (one of the groups that sponsors the Lake Guardian workshops each summer.)