What to do when a bear visits....

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SWBAT use scientific questions to guide their observations to draw conclusions.

Big Idea

Teaching about big ideas that are far removed from the classroom environment can make it difficult to bring science to life. Real world artifacts can change the whole outlook of this.

Setting the Stage

10 minutes

This lesson came about because of a golden opportunity.  A gift of having the chance to borrow real bear skins, molds of foot prints, and a skull of a black bear landed in our lap one afternoon. A good friend had access to all of these resources and graciously shared them with the class. The best part of the gift was the amount of time we had to use the artifacts.  I knew I would need at least two days to allow time for all the students to explore the artifacts and we did not need to return them for at least a week.  

I took full advantage of these real specimens for my students and quickly formulated a lesson plan. I knew this lesson would provide another opportunity to work with models and distinguishing between real objects and representations (SP2).  But it would also give me another opportunity to really show how bears bodies have adapted to the wild.  Not just showing the children a video clip or a pictures, but the real thing!!! (2-LS-4-1). 

The night before my lesson, I created the booklet I wanted the children to document their learning in.    

I am very lucky in that my Specialist time is scheduled right before my science block. This time allows me the ability to set up lessons and prepare all materials so it is prepared when my students return. Just prior to my students heading out that day, I explain to them that when they return , I want to share some very exciting artifacts with them to.  I tell them that I have borrowed these artifacts and we will need to remember to be respectful and honor the chance to use them. They leave excited and full of anticipation.

While the students are gone, I take all the artifacts and put them around the room. Because there were only a small amount of each, I decide to use them in a workshop rotation format.  The children already sit in table teams that are strategically placed.  (When I create my teams, I consider personalities, academical levels, ELL students, and boy/girl ratios. The children stay in these teams for three to four weeks depending on their abilities to work together).  

I charted out the direction that the teams would move to rotate through each artifact and about how much time I thought it would take to make it through the learning.  I knew that we would not make it through everything in one day, so I planned for this to be a two day cycle.  



5 minutes

When my students return from our specialists, they walk into the classroom full of anticipation. Eyes are lit up and it is difficult to control their excitement when they see the artifacts on the classroom tables and floor.  I have already laid out on their tables the Animal Adaptations Student Booklet for them to record their learning.  

When all the children are settled, I explain to them how we are going to proceed with this lesson. I tell them that we are going to work this lesson just like our reading workshop time.  I explain that each team will begin at their table and work with the artifacts that are in front of them.  I then show them the booklet that they have.  I describe the sentence stems and explain the children will be completing the sentences with the information that they gather.  

I do expect this to be a bit difficult.  We have used sentence stems before in many of our lessons, but not quite this many.  I really want this opportunity to be more than just making observations and gathering mathematical data.  Because we have been working on sharing our thinking and communicating like a scientist, this seems like a good fit to begin writing more.  

I frame all the questions around adaptations, which is still a new concept to the children. I want the questions to guide their observations (SP1).  I also want to create an opportunity with real world artifacts to be able to analyze and interpret observations from the artifacts (SP4).


Stations! Day 1

55 minutes

I have five stations ready to go...

1.  Bear Skull - task...sketch the skull and draw conclusions about the importance of the sharp teeth.  

2.  Bear's Fur - task...observe the bear skins and draw conclusions from the observations that you make. 

3.  Bear Paw Print - task...measure the bear paw and measure your own foot.  Make comparisons with the data you gather.

4.  Bear weight - task...weigh yourself and compare your weight to the the bear's weight. (Information about the bear weight can be gathered from the student journals from their notes). 

5.  Bear Data - task....finish up any data that needs to finished.

Because there are two bear skins the first group I assign to station five, begins at there as though they are at station four.  Then when they arrive back to finish up station five, they finish up their work.  

I explain to the children what they will be doing. I share with them that this will be just like in our other workshop times, when they hear the bell ring to remember that means it is time to stop our work in this area and move on to the next station. 

The children can hardly wait to get going.  

While the students are working, I am wandering the classroom.  I listening to the dialogue and thrill of observing these types of artifacts for the first time.  I pay attention to the clock and allow the children to remain at each station for fifteen minutes each.  This will give us time to complete three rotations and complete the last two on Day 2.  

Stations! Day 2

30 minutes

Before we begin, I have the artifacts spread out around the room again ready when the children arrive.  I really do not need to do much reminding about what we are doing. The children are sure of where they still need to go and are anxious to begin.  

I remind them of the time constraints and what to do when they hear the bell.  

We begin again and work through the same process we work through on Day one.  

At the end of the workshop session, the children help me to put all the artifacts back in to the correct tubs they arrive in.  And we then debrief with the information they have gathered.  



10 minutes

Once the children have all had the opportunity to hold, touch and experience all the artifacts, we gather together on the rug. I want to hear what their first hand experiences have brought to their understanding of the concepts of adaptions.  I ask the children to bring their note taking documents with them.  I begin by asking what their reactions were to being able to touch and feel all the realia?  

The responses are incredible. The children really have not quite talking about the artifacts since they arrived in our classroom.  When the excitement has died down, I bring the questions back to what they noticed about the artifacts and how the bear must use these elements to adapt to the wild. 

I focus on the following....

  • Why do you believe the bear's teeth are sharp and dull? 

The sharp teeth are meant for tearing meat, while the flat teeth are for chewing plants.  This information was clear in the Power Point. 

  • Why is the fur so thick and full? 

The fur is meant to keep the bear warm in the cold regions where it lives.  

  • What did you notice about the bear's paws? Why would they need to be so big?

The size of the bear paws is also important in that it helps to carry the large body weight of the bear. 

I want to hear what the children believe the bear's body features accomplish in helping them to survive in the wild.