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Becoming Africa’s Wildlife


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Keywords: science
Subject(s): Photography, Biology, Information Skills, Writing, Life Science, Technology, Art, English/Language Arts, Science
Grades 4 through 6
School: Jordan Community School, Chicago, IL
Planned By: Luisa Pizarro
Original Author: Luisa Pizarro, Chicago
Introducing the Unit
Introduce the unit through the following scenario:
Day 1: A Trip to Africa
Student will be greeted at the door by a flight attendant (me). The students will receive a boarding pass that says “Destination Africa”. Inside the boarding pass, the student will have a K-W-L chart that will be used as an assessment tool. The classroom will be set up as close to an airplane structure as possible (chairs in two rows, with an aisle in the middle; desks will be placed on the outer edge of the room). Everyone will be treated as though we are on an actual airplane trip.
• Before we begin our trip, we will brainstorm ideas and thoughts about Africa and animals.
• Then, students will begin to fill out their K-W-L, (K part first should be done in pairs.)
• Afterwards, in front of each chair, there will be pockets of reading materials, kind of like where the airplanes house magazines and the emergency flyer. Students will browse through the material and discuss with their neighbor about the material they are reading.
• We will begin the trip with a film about African animals from National Geographic. The film will be shown in front in the class via computer with a projector and screen.
After the film, I will let the students know that they have all been hired to create a field guide for a Safari Company. The field guide will used for guests, so the guests can identify and appreciate various African animals on the safari tour. The company wants a poster they can show to guests as they gather at headquarters before they set off on their safari. The students’ job is to become an expert on one animal and develop a poster about the animal to add to the field guide. Play a brainstorming game with the class to get students thinking about African animals and tapping into their prior knowledge.
Working in small groups, have students think of and list as many African animals as they can in five minutes. After five minutes are up, bring the class back together and facilitate a round-robin, instructing each group to contribute only one animal at a time. Continue with the round-robin until lists are exhausted. Add each new animal to a class list and post it in the room for student reference or publish it for students to add to their unit work collection. Challenge students to continue adding animals to the class chart as they discover them through the research process.

(Day 1) HOME WORK
The students will choose 3 of their favorite African Animals to research. They should pick three, so that no one will research the same animal. (I will let the students know who will be working in groups of two, so those students can decide together.)
Send a letter home that describes the activities of the unit and enlists parent help.
Day 2: Filling in the “W” part of the K-W-L chart
Students will be given a portfolio folder to begin collecting information. The students should first add their K-W-L chart to the folder. Review what was written yesterday in the K part. Add any new information the students might want to add. Have your Grades and Scores checklist out. Pull students name out a cup and have them tell you what animal they have selected. If the students hear the same animal on their list, have them cross it out and make sure not to select that animal when their name is called. (Wok on those listening skills).
After all the students have selected an animal. Allow students time to discuss with their peers about the animal they have chosen. Have students in pairs or in groups fill in the “W” part of the KWL. Go around the room and see what students have written.
Posing Questions and Eliciting Prior Knowledge
Pose the Essential Question, How are living things connected in their habitat and in what ways do they need each other to survive? In small groups, have students begin to talk about the Essential Question and brainstorm their thoughts, examples, and ideas. Bring the discussion back to the whole group and chart the group’s responses. Use student responses to facilitate a discussion about animal conservation, overpopulation, and other environmental concerns. Keep this chart to refer to as the unit unfolds.

Before students select their animals for research, engage in an activity that encourages and empowers the students to drive their own learning. A Know-Wonder-Learn (K-W-L) activity is a great way to elicit questions from students and make the learning their own. Ask students what they know about African animals already and what they wonder about them as well. Keep returning to the K-W-L questions to prompt thinking and investigation throughout the unit. As students generate questions, put the questions on big strips of paper, which can be organized according to the elements of the field guide activity (conservation, habitat, and so on).

Field Guide Learning Activity
To get students involved in the field guide activity, pose the Unit Question, If you were an African animal, which one would you most like to be and why? Using the African animal chart started at the beginning of the unit, have students select and list three choices. Choose student names from a hat or bucket. When students are called, have them choose an animal from their list. To avoid duplication, have students cross out animals that have already been chosen. Develop a class list on chart paper showing the animal each student will be researching. Enlist students to suggest ways they can begin researching their African animal. Each African animal investigation will result in a field guide page done in publishing software and will include the elements in the following Field Guide Requirements List:
Field Guide Requirements List
• Food web showing sun, producer, primary consumer, secondary consumer, and decomposer relationships
• Section telling how to spot the animal on safari (based on a synthesis of information about habitat, ecological niche, adaptation, and interdependence)
• Section about conservation (an analysis of the underpinnings of biological success as well as health of the species)
• Section about the animal’s survival in the wild
• Section about the price of life
• Picture of the animal
• Facts-at-a-glance section (general characteristics of the animal)
The class should have studied the concepts of habitat and interdependence before independent study begins. Mini-lessons might be necessary along the way, or the research steps might need to be modeled to help students further develop concepts.

Teacher Modeling and Getting Started
After choosing their animals to study, students can narrow their focus onto their own animal by using an individual K-W-L chart. Model research and citation skills. Use the field guide example to show students the format being used and an example of quality work. Make a research packet by attaching the K-W-L chart to the guided note-taking sheet. Students can use the research and citation note-taking sheet to record information as well. Have students use peer conferencing to get feedback on their work throughout the project.

Researching African Animals
As students dive deeper into their research, they will address and answer the following Essential, Unit, and Content Questions:
• If you were an African animal, which one would you most like to be and why?
• What do African animals need to survive?
• What are the characteristics of African animals?
• Are all animals worth protecting?
• How are living things connected in their habitat and in what ways do they need each other to survive?
Allow several days for students to work on their investigations, and encourage them to use a variety of resources. Guide and assist students as needed during this process, taking anecdotal notes to keep track of individual needs. While the whole class is busy conducting research, meet individually with students to check their work, answer questions, and discuss their progress or any problems they may be having.


Oral Presentations and/or(written Essay)
To get more involved into African animal research, have students create multimedia presentations from the perspective of the animal they are researching. This multimedia presentation should address and answer the following Essential, Unit, and Content Questions:
• If you could be any African animal, which one would you be and why?
• If your animal could speak, how would it describe itself and its life in Africa?
• How are living things connected in their habitat and in what ways do they need each other to survive?
• Are all animals worth protecting?
• How do animals in Africa adapt to their environment?
• What do African animals need to survive?
• What are the characteristics of African animals?


Multimedia Presentation Requirements (Power Point)
The presentations should include at least one slide for each of the following topics:
• Title
• Physical features of the animal
• How the animal is built and special characteristics
• Comparison of the animal to humans (size, speed, longevity, sensory acuity, food consumption, care of young, and so on), with pictures and a graph
• Where the animal lives, with a map
• Animal’s habitat, with a picture
• How the animal hunts and the types of food it eats, with a picture
• Food web and a description of how it all connects
• Animal’s family life
• The future of the animal
• Response to the question, Are animals worth protecting?
• Summary that tells why the animal was chosen
Distribute a presentation checklist to help students monitor their progress as they work on the presentation.

Creating Field Guide Page (Poster, Publisher)
After students have gathered their information, they will create and publish a page for the field guide, using publishing software. Refer to the field guide example again and answer any questions. Have students use the field guide template as they input their own African animal information, pictures, and graphics. After all students have completed the field guide pages, place them in a class book for the classroom library.
Materials: Cause and Effect, Timeline, Slideshow, Web Page, Keyboarding, Word Processor, Science, Flash/USB Drives, Batteries, Digital Voice Recorders, Point and Shoot, Wildlife, Mobile Labs
Other Items: 1 color laser ink jet printer, $600 each, total of $600.00
1 Elmo Visual Presenter, $2000 each, total of $2000.00
1 LCD Projector, $1000 each, total of $1000.00
25 student /National Geographic Subscriptions, $100 each, total of $2500.00