A project-based learning initiative at the Center for Instruction, Technology & Innovation recently infused traditional academic studies with interpersonal skills as students presented animal habitats they created.
The first-of-its-kind effort in the Exceptional Education program proved to be a success, according to teachers Darlene Ochsner and Janet McKnight.
After attending a professional development session at the beginning of the school year, the teachers began to develop ways to engage the students and encourage critical thinking.
“We started brainstorming ideas in the fall and we decided to do a project that incorporated animals,” McKnight said. “The students in this age group (third through fifth grades) really enjoy animals and they were excited to create a project about the subject.”
The project incorporated a research component, where students selected an animal and learned about its lifecycle and habits; team work, where the Exceptional Education students worked with students in CiTi’s Digital Media Technology program to develop an artistic rendering of the animal habitat; a creativity aspect, where students created giant display boards detailing what they learned; and a public speaking element in which students presented their findings to their teachers and peers.
“There are a lot of pieces to this project,” said Jim Huber, director of Exceptional Education. “They started by going to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo and learning about animal habitats and the project evolved from there. If you look at what the kids learned, this is all-encompassing. It ties in a variety of academics, like science and vocabulary, and builds life skills like communication and social interaction.”