Krisle Elementary Scholars Enjoy Unique STEM-Focused Learning Module

Krisle Elementary Scholars Enjoy Unique STEM-Focused Learning Module
Posted on 03/06/2019

Krisle Elementary School second grade students recently enjoyed a unique and exciting learning experience as a result of a new position one of their teachers enjoys.


In the fall of 2018, KES teacher, Shelby Johnson, was accepted into a statewide cohort of educators to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) within her school. STEM experiences promote inquiry learning, encourage problem solving, and challenge students to think critically.  Ms. Johnson is a member of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network (TSIN) Rural STEM Collaborative Program. As one of forty-three educators in this statewide program, she developed a STEM initiative for all second grade scholars at KES.


Johnson implemented a project-based learning unit for her initiative during the month of February, which focused on habitats and animal adaptations. Second grade KES teachers used complex and informative texts throughout the unit; focusing on specific habitats and animal adaptations in order to survive in a particular habitat environment. Scholars were assigned an animal and challenged to describe how it could adapt to a new habitat for a two-week visit. They concluded by presenting their findings orally and in writing, along with creating a habitat diorama showcasing those findings visually.


Projects included explaining how the following animals could adapt to a new habitat for a two-week visit:

-Camel to the arctic

-A frog from tropical rainforest to the grassland

-A lizard from the woodland traveling to the desert

-Wetland turtle to the ocean/marine habitat

-Arctic fox to the woodland forest


Special outside STEM speakers came to KES and spoke to scholars to further assist in their learning even more about habitats, animal needs, and animal adaptations.


Additionally, the Nashville Zoo visited on February 11, and brought five animals to show scholars. Each animal was from a different habitat and possessed several adaptations to help them survive in their particular environment. Animals included a chinchilla, an owl, a lizard, a gopher tortoise, and a sloth.


On February 12, Johnson's class Skyped with a scientist, Dr. Travis Hagey: an animal biologist from Mississippi. Hagey researches specifically how animals adapt to their surroundings, and presented information to scholars helping them to understand many unique examples.


A veterinarian tech from the Robertson County Animal Clinic, visited scholars on February 13.  During her visit she shared methods she utilizes to cares for animals each day and provided instruction about pet care and specific adaptations.


All speakers explained to scholars, how they use all aspects of STEM in their careers each day. They also provided information on educational requirements and salary expectations for wildlife related professions. As a result, scholars are now aware of several new STEM career choices available after graduation. KES is very fortunate for the cooperation and participation of these community partners, as they further enriched this STEM instructional unit.


Individually, Johnson's class was able to use virtual reality technology to view the habitats in an immersive experience, further helping them determine what characteristics should be included in their habitat diorama. Scholars worked collaboratively as a group to build a diorama, which proved their animal could adapt to its new habitat for two weeks.


As an ending to the STEM PBL (project-based learning) unit, KES hosted a Second Grade STEM Showcase. This special event was held on Thursday, February 28. Family members and friends were invited, on this evening, to hear students perform a musical performance featuring habitat songs. Then they were able to visit the school gymnasium to both see the scholars' habitat dioramas, and hear them verbally explain how they made their project and how their given animal could adapt to the new habitat. Guests could also scan a QR code using a mobile device to view a video of scholars explaining even more about their project.


Overall, this educational unit was both effective and engaging to the scholars. Their academic vocabulary, scientific knowledge, and STEM career awareness were all deepened and enlarged. Additionally they were challenged to think in abstracts, support that thinking with scientific facts, and work as a collaborative team.


Participating scholars were positive in their response to the project, saying things like:

-"Is this even learning? It is so fun!"

-"When I grow up, I now want to work with animals each day and help them live a healthy life."

-"Let me be clear, I did not like this unit... I absolutely loved it!"


Johnson said that without the support of TSIN and the KES administration she’d not have been able to provide her second-grade scholars with the memorable and meaningful results of this unique learning experience.





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