“As young environmentalists, how can we teach others
how important our everyday choices are?”
Project based learning has led first grade students in Mrs. Mann’s and Mrs. Shaw’s classrooms to develop a love for the Earth through meaningful, engaging, real world learning! The driving question, “As young environmentalists, how can we teach others how important our everyday choices are?” inspired students to research and develop multiple plans to help teach others why it is so important to take care of our Earth! The first graders noticed how much litter there was in their very own community. They saw litter in creeks, on top of plants that were trying to grow on the sidewalks, at the ball fields and all over the path to the school. They were shocked and wondered how and why this happened. The first-grade students researched on Google and developed power points and posters to help teach others how litter can harm everything that lives on our Earth! They learned about how litter affects the water systems, the plants and animals in our community and their own families.
The first-grade classrooms decided to do something about the litter problem in their community. They walked around campus and uptown and collected 15 trash bags full of litter! As they held discussions about their findings, they realized that the most garbage was collected on the school path and around the baseball and softball fields. During one of the conversations, the children noticed and discussed how the school did not have any garbage cans along the walking path. They noticed the many garbage cans on the playground and uptown but none along the path. After brainstorming with the principal, Mrs. Randles and the custodian, Mr. Palmer, the students decided they needed to take action! After much consideration and research, the first graders knew it was time to build a garbage can! The students participated and planned every aspect of this project from making supply lists, unloading the materials, organizing teams, sanding, measuring, and putting together the garbage can! When asked to share about the most challenging part of the project, Judy Sanguedolche stated, “We had to make sure our measurements were correct on the wood otherwise the pieces would not line up and fit on the garbage can.”
The students successfully ‘learned by doing’, as they had a few pieces that were off and had to be remeasured and recut. “That is part of learning. I knew we would have to check and recheck the measurements. I knew we would have to spend more time discussing measurement, measuring, and cutting again but you better believe they checked their measurements twice from that point on and they will never forget that step of the project!” says Mrs. Mann.
Project based learning is designed for the driving question to “drive” the learning process. During this project, the students started to research litter and saw the many ramifications it had on the Earth. This is when each child's interests and passions were able to come to life. This is when meaningful and engaging learning happened. The children created teams to research on Google and to make posters to spread the word about different subjects pertaining to helping our Earth. Students also had meetings with their families to share what they had learned and made creative eBooks to teach others about the importance of protecting our planet. They also created artwork which caught the attention of other students and teachers in our building and started conversations about the importance of protecting the environment!
The students then became intrigued about plants and animals and how they help the Earth. Students also discovered how litter can harm plant and animal life. After learning about weeds and the importance of keeping them out of flower beds, the first graders decided to collaborate with Mr. Palmer to clean up the weeds in the flower beds located on the Burton Elementary school grounds. In the process of cleaning the flower beds, they learned about what living things need to grow and the different parts of plants.
Learning about recycling was the next natural topic of discussion which then led to learning about animals and their characteristics and needs. This was all student-led! The students wanted to know more about the animals who lived in their backyards and began to research. Each student chose a local animal and shared how we can support it in our community. They also made bird feeders out of recycled materials and placed them around campus to help the birds in our community thrive! Everything these kiddos researched they added to their eBook so others could learn too!
Project based learning provides students opportunities to learn through doing. It provides students different methods of incorporating language, math, and science standards into hands-on, real world learning. The first graders at Burton Elementary saw a problem in their very own community and decided to do something about it! Mrs. Mann states, “I am so very proud of all these students. They took their idea, collaborated with each other, school administrators and staff to make a difference in our world!” Mrs. Shaw says, “These students were amazing, they really became immersed in this project. Everything they did revolved around being Earth Heroes! They would come to school every morning with a new idea or story to tell on how they were protecting the Earth or spreading the word!”
Project based learning is so meaningful and engaging. These first-grade students saw an issue affecting our community and took steps to address it! During the process they decided as a class to sign an official Earth Hero Oath! They promised to always protect and educate others and encourage all to be Earth Heroes! They worked hard together on difficult real-world tasks and together changed the world!