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home : columns : columns September 15, 2014

4/1/2014 1:03:00 PM
The SES animal project
Clay Warburton looks on approvingly at four of the many trifold exhibits his fourth-grade students created for the “Outlaw Zoo.” photo by Jim Anderson
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Clay Warburton looks on approvingly at four of the many trifold exhibits his fourth-grade students created for the “Outlaw Zoo.” photo by Jim Anderson

By Jim Anderson

Fourth-grade teacher Clay Warburton decided he wanted to bring his students into knowing how we humans fit into and share space with other animals inhabiting this wonderful old Earth with us, and did so in the most creative way.

He began by illustrating all the animal kingdoms and families on a sheet of legal paper, which in itself was a major accomplishment. Then, with the aid of the school's Prezi app, he created a spectacular computer presentation explaining how scientists classified the wide diversity of creatures in the Animal Kingdom and introduced his students as to how homo sapiens fit into the natural world.

He then invited the students to pick any animal they wanted and, through the aid of library materials, encyclopedia and website information, collect all the information they could and prepare to demonstrate what they had done in a future presentation.

Being the clever hombre Clay is, he didn't let all the scholastic energy go to waste, he just requested the students to organize the information they collected, tell how they did it, provide printed evidence of their research, and then he graded them on how they went about their searches.

The next step was for the students to create a tri-fold exhibit board on which they placed - artfully - the illustrations and information they had collected about their chosen animal.

The Animal Project wasn't just a, "this is a sloth, or this is a camel" kind of exercise. It was a great deal more complex, somewhat like: "Camels were once common in the Americas, prior to the last Ice Age, but the only camels you can find today in North America are their fossilized bones in places like Fossil Lake, in Lake County, and a few other Western states."

This type of study is something the students usually meet up with in middle school. Warburton's fourth-graders - having been introduced to not only the complexity of the biology of their beasties, but also gaining knowledge of the inner workings of the ecosystems in which they/we live- have gained information that will live on in many of them as they advance into higher education, and may even lead them to a career.

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