Okay, the title is may be loftier than the reality, but the results were fun, so I wanted to share.  Our third- and fourth-graders were working on a great unit that explored the idea of “Who am I?” through the lens of autobiography, family trees, and evolution.  Their final project was amazing (I’ll say more about that below), but I really enjoyed a little piece of their learning that I got to do with them in Library class. 

To focus on the idea of adaptation, I decided to read to them the book “What Do You Do with a Like This?” by Steve Jenkings and Robin Page which looks at how different animals adapted to fit their particular evolutionary niche.  By looking at the eyes, ears, noses, etc., from different animals, readers can understand how those variations enable the animal to better see, hear, smell, and so on in their particular habitat.

But I didn’t want the lesson to end there, so I found a great experiment on-line that I adapted to connect with the book.  I gathered four different pretend “beaks” for the students to use:  a clothespin, a paper binder clip, a staple remover, and a spoon.  Then I presented them with various possible “food” for their fictional birds—rolled oats, uncooked rice grains, Cheerios, and unpopped popcorn.  I presented the foods one type at a time, with each “beak” trying to catch as much food as it could by placing it in a small cup (to represent the stomach) in a specified time.  After they had tried each of the foods, the students then analyzed which ones worked best with each beak and why.  In the end, they had a better grasp of how each body part in the book related to real life needs of the animals we had read about.

These students are lucky to have a fabulously creative homeroom teacher who worked with them to create a final project that included much research and learning about cells, evolution, and human development.  They created and preformed dances that showed mitosis and other cellular processes, they read biographies about an ancestor from their family tree that they admired, they created a video showing their vision of how evolution happened (and how it tied to the story of creation in the Torah), and they recited poems that they wrote as part of their own autobiographies.

Connections are wonderful results of such an interdisciplinary approach to education.