During the month of January, my Kindergarten co-teacher and I have been engaging our students in a variety of lessons about bears and their habitats, especially their winter habitats. We used a couple stories throughout our unit to support our learning journey:
Along with a few non-fiction books for the grade-level:
One of the main experiences we were gearing up for was an opportunity for the students to create a bear habitat out of recycled materials. 🙂 My co-teacher collected recycled materials by writing a letter home and asking the parents to donate what they could. Items poured in, which added to the excitement from the students.
Last year another co-teacher and I had created a similar learning experience. As part of our reflection and debrief, we felt it would have been wonderful if the students actually had a small plastic animal, to not only place in their den, but to have as they were creating. This year I am a grant recipient of a 3D printer, so I printed some bears, using the Thingiverse resource. 🙂 We had a parent volunteer paint them due to time.
To set up the creation space, we created a materials section (construction paper and recycled materials), and a teacher table for the hot glue gun needs. We also had packing tape and teacher scissors, which I had, as I walked around from table to table, helping students with their designs. Providing verbal language opportunities was a target for both of us. We hoped that this lesson would provide all of our students, especially our ELLs, an authentic language opportunity that had embedded in it a desire to communicate. We also hoped it provided them an opportunity to practice some frequently used classroom vocabulary, like colors and supplies. It did! 🙂
After we explained to the students about the different materials, the goal, and had some review discussions about bears and their habitats (for example…their home isn’t like our home, right? Would they have a TV?, etc.), the students were off to create with no further guidance from us.
We were so proud of their creativity, their ingenuity, their expanding use of knowledge and skills, and their language use! 🙂 To showcases their habitats, we placed two tables in our main foyer. Side note: I was doing a five senses lesson on fake snow vs. real snow in 1st grade (more on that to come), and I thought it would be great to cover the table with my leftover fake snow…ummm…that didn’t work out. Dried out much too quickly (although some of the pictures show the display using the fake snow). Instead I went with creating snow mounds with paper. Another note, in case you do this amazing lesson with your students–it is very important for the students to have their bear while creating. That didn’t happen with the second group of kindergarteners, since the bears were already in the display from the first group. Although their habitat and creativity didn’t seem to suffer, emotionally they really wanted the bear. That was a misstep on my part.