Monday, March 9, 2015

Ecosystems & Animal Research Booklets

Animal Research in the UPPERGRADES? I have to admit, I have always underestimated the power of "Animal Research" in my 4th and 5th grade classrooms~I always thought it would be too basic for my students. Is it possible to take this typically lower-grades project to a higher level? I think so! Today I'm popping in to share my latest science research booklet, but WAIT...this booklet is MORE than just a booklet! It's also a project~based learning unit! I have been envisioning, processing, tweaking and adding to this booklet since November and finally uploaded it on Friday.

I had to create this set of research/notebook pages for myself because nothing I found when searching for “animal research projects” really fit my needs for upper elementary students and our curriculum. Utilizing NC standards from 4th grade and 5th grade, I focused on habitats, ecosystems, biomes, adaptations, and on supporting students as they develop an in-depth understanding of a specific organism {all were consumers}.

I designed my research booklet with lots of opportunities for students to sketch in response to their research and learning. I also defined key vocabulary on each page. This gave me the option to use some of the pages for lessons and science notebooking while others were specifically for my students' "Consumer Research" projects. The pages included provide students with ecosystems basics (physical and behavioral adaptations, abiotic factors (sunlight, soil, temperature, landforms), biotic factors (producer, consumer, decomposer), niche, food chains, etc) while also offering opportunities to extend the curriculum (symbiosis, human impact, environmental changes, etc).

What did I do with the research booklet?

I wanted my students to learn about the two main biomes in North Carolina—temperate deciduous forests and the coastal plain (including wetlands/estuaries). I printed the following pages on 1/2 sheets for students to research the temperate deciduous forest (for 2 days) and the coastal plain (another 2 days):

I printed these sheets twice (one set for Temperate Deciduous Forests and one for the Coastal Plain). If your curriculum focuses on world biomes, I have included similar sheets titled "Ecosystems" and "Biomes" so that you have choices. If I were teaching 5th grade this year, I would have students complete the biome sheets for multiple biomes. {Maybe strategically picking two that I would want them to compare after researching both}.I have also included “World Biomes” cover pages and a world map.

After students built background knowledge for our two main ecosystems (and some key vocabulary) we began our organism Research Projects. I created a list of key organisms in NC that students could choose from for their research project. Each student was required to choose a different organism to allow variety. Students received a “Consumer Research Booklet” that included:

• Cover page (you have many versions to choose from)
• Map (I have included a world map and NC Map)
• Habitat, Sweet Habitat
• Physical Adaptations
• Behavioral Adaptations
• Diet (Food Chain)
• Interactions with Other Organisms (Food Web)
• That’s Just “Niche”
• Interactions with Humans
• Relationships Between Organisms
• Ch-Ch-Changes (organism version)

For about two weeks of science/writing time, students used a list of websites that I provided to learn more about their organism. The booklet provided them with a guide for information they should seek out and a way to collect and organize that information, it made the connection to the science standards for our curriculum, and also included some extension topics for their research.
You have many options with the sheets included in this research booklet. I used some of the sheets during science lessons as they are perfect for capturing information in science notebooks; you can complete these sheets together, have students use websites to fill in, or have students work in partners. (You can't go wrong, if I do say so myself ;)

What happened next? Students used their booklets to create a research paper...and later, a google slideshow...and a WHOLE LOT MORE!!!

In this product, I have included “starter” materials for a possible project-based learning unit where students create a mobile museum based on their research booklets. I'm going to share all of our PROJECT BASED fun with you in my next post. Look for it on Thursday or download this baby now and get yo-self started on this engaging unit!

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