students have been learning what it's like to live in the South Pole in a new learning project for fifth-graders.
Deb Smith, an assistant teacher at Chesapeake, gives us an inside look at what's going in in the classroom.
Walking down the fifth-grade hallway of Chesapeake Academy recently, you might have seen some more than unusual activity in and around the classrooms.
Students submerging their hands in ice cold water with rubber gloves on? Animal whistling noises? Musical rhythm patterns and chants of snowy poetry? Penguins peeking out of doorways? Models of blue whales, leopard seals and albatross?
Looking outside, the behavior seemed even more odd to observers.
“One day, I saw a large group of fifth-graders standing closely together in a circle,” observed one parent. “They were huddled together, shoulder-to-shoulder, as close as can be. I wasn’t sure what was going on. When I saw them waddle away, I just had to ask—only to learn they were mimicking penguins trying to stay warm in the South Pole.”
Desperate acts for snowy and cold weather in this unusually balmy February, you might ask? Fifth grade teachers think not, as they proudly explain their multi-disciplinary approach to the study and exploration of the frozen environment of Antarctica.
“Our exploration of Antarctica has not only provided a chance to have fun and showcase our creativity, but it has given us the unique opportunity to integrate the two fifth-grade classes and learn about a fascinating region of the world across all disciplines,” says fifth-grade teacher Vicki D’Andrea. “It has allowed us to celebrate the different learning styles of all of our students and the children are completely engaged in what we are doing.”
Students began their Antarctic journey by reading a variety of books about the region, including the humorous antics of the Popper family in Mr. Popper’s Penguins.
Descriptive writing pieces based on the life of a specific penguin breed and the creation of mini environments and posters for animals indigenous to the South Pole, including penguins, leopard seals and whales, intrigued students from the start. Discussions turned to explorer Ernest Shackleton—whose Antarctic-bound ship became trapped in the ice with the entire crew surviving on floating ice and in small boats for months.
“What we are most impressed with is the quality of the research and work students have done on their own--without asking--and the eagerness with which they want to share their knowledge,” agree both fifth grade teachers. “They have pulled information from a variety of sources such as newspaper articles, photographs, film footage and the Internet. These real life documents help to authenticate their learning experience.”
“Research undoubtedly leads to more questions and curiosity,” adds Mrs. Woodward. “We have taken advantage of the Smart Boards to search for real-life examples of concepts that we are discussing. And it is all instantly at our fingertips.”
In addition to presenting information to their peers, fifth-graders will be sharing their projects and mini environment displays with their younger “helping hands” in second grade. “Helping hands” is a program designed to pair an older Chesapeake Academy student with a younger student to share in special learning and social events.
Chesapeake Academy is an independent elementary school serving preschool through fifth grade students in Anne Arundel County. For more information, visit the website at www.chesapeakeacademy.com or call 410-647-9612.