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January 25, 2012

Bring fun activities into your classroom!

Blog post by former teacher, and USEE volunteer, Holly!

We are now in the 2nd semester of the school year. This semester always seems to be the longest and most dragged out semester, even though it had the same amount of weeks as the first. By now all the students have settled in and everything has become routine. So routine in fact, it has become boring! And without all the holiday vacations to break up the monotony, your students become listless and glassy eyed, as well as you, the teacher!

Why not spark interest in your students once again by planning some active and creative lessons about animals? The Utah core curriculum requires students in all grade levels to explore topics regarding animals, including living vs. nonliving, habitats, adaptations, classification, and interdependency to name a few. Students also love learning about animals. There are millions of different species out there, all with unique colorings, bodies, sounds, and habits. It’s amazing to see them and wonder how or why these animals are how they are.

The Project WILD K-12 curriculum and activity guide is a great resource for finding fun, active and creative activities regarding animals. This environmental and conservation education program emphasizes awareness, appreciation and understanding of wildlife and natural resources. It is interdisciplinary and supplementary and can be used to teach basic skills in science, social studies, language arts, math, art, music and physical education.

This is NOT a full curriculum but rather separate lessons that you can use to supplement your own curriculum.

Students learn best when able to explore a topic using many different techniques and levels of thinking, and this guide has a wide variety. It includes activities that you can do both indoor and outdoor, includes games, writing assignments, role playing debates, art projects and more! In many of the activities your students will feel like they are just having fun, but really gaining valuable concepts.

Some examples of topics and activities would be:

Topic: Basic Needs grades K-4
  • Have students explore carrying capacity and its effects by providing too little of a necessity or sitting very close together and still perform daily tasks.
  • Play “Habitat Rummy” a card game where students collect all the basic needs of a specific animal to win.

Topic: Adaptations grades 5-8
  • Pretend to be Muskox (a grazing animal) and wolves and role play predator/prey relationships in relation to adaptations these animals have. This is a physical activity, resembling tag, to be done outside or in a large spacious room.
  • Have students create their own species of bird with specific traits and adaptations needed to live under specific conditions.

Topic: Interdependence grades 9-12
  • Students can play a game of checks and balances and try to manage their own deer/moose population without letting it go extinct.
  • Have students redesign an area of land to simulate restoration of a working ecosystem. What animals and plants would they include? How would they self sustain? Etc.

There are many more activities to choose to cover these particular topics that have students use different skills and levels or thinking and that relate to other topics included in the Utah core curriculum for grades K-12. In the appendix you will find charts that help you find an activity based on grade level, time duration, indoor or outdoor, subject areas (science, math etc), topics, and skills (comparison, application, synthesis etc).

Often the “fun” activities are left behind once students reach higher grade levels, but the Project WILD curriculum and activity guide can help bring more creative and active lessons to any grade level, while still providing opportunities for using higher thinking levels.

I would really recommend taking the Project WILD workshop and buying the book, it is a great reference to have.

Please visit the Project WILD page or USEE.org for more information.

Click here to see a calendar of the upcoming workshops.


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