The Animals and Ecosystems Zoo Project is my FAVORITE project of the year! I sit all the kids down and announce that our class has bought a zoo! And we’re the zookeepers! We name our zoo and talk about how awesome our zoo is going to be and start brainstorming all the cool features of our zoo. The kids love it, and I love it because the project integrates reading, writing, research, and science into one big shared experience!
Part 1: Animal Research
The first part of this project is conducting animal research. I encourage students to select a unique animal that they think we should have in our zoo. Their job is to learn about the animal and its needs and habitat, and also to convince the rest of us that this animal should be in our zoo.
We launch with a shared research experience on one animal so that the kids can learn the ins and outs of research. I model how to find information using text features, how to take notes, and how to turn notes into paragraphs.
Students use their research to create a booklet about their animal along with an advertisement that shares the most interesting features of that animal.
Next, students work in small groups to study the ecosystem where their animals would be found. After gathering information, the kids make a brochure and poster that teaches about their ecosystems. We also create models of each ecosystem and pretend these are the exhibits at the zoo. We set up each exhibit around the room along with their poster, brochure, and animal booklets. Then the students take a tour of the zoo and learn about all the different ecosystems and animals.
Last time, I had students take a fold up with them as they toured the different exhibits so they could take notes on the different ecosystems.
You could easily do this project without it, BUT I did create a handy pack to go with this project. It includes a student guide, booklet and brochure templates, and tips for teaching.
I’d love to hear how you teach these concepts and any other ideas for creating a meaningful research experience!