Tuckahoe Teachers Incorporating Bronx Zoo Trip Into Common Core

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Lions and tigers and bears—oh, my!This year, Tuckahoe School’s elementary teachers are taking new steps to integrate both the state-mandated Common Core curriculum and the district’s own technology curriculum more seamlessly into students’ lives. To achieve this goal, the district used a long-standing district tradition—a recent trip to the Bronx Zoo—to give third-graders a more in-depth look into the continent of Africa, using Common Core knowledge and teaching practices to bring the lesson home to students.

Now, students are taking what they learned at the zoo and bringing it back to the classroom, creating PowerPoint presentations to teach fellow students about specific animals they focused on at the zoo.

“While we were at the zoo, students actually had to do their own research on the animals,” third grade teacher Christina Collins said last week. “They have their clipboards and their key vocabulary words that they have to tie into their slideshows and their work. They each got to pick their own animals so they could be more interested.”

As part of the Common Core standards, teachers are supposed to give students three types of writing assignments: persuasive, informative and narrative, teacher Brett Voegel explained. The trip to the zoo, she said, gave the 34 students the perfect opportunity to practice all three while homing in on the social studies curriculum.

On the day of the trip, October 17, the students were each given an assignment to answer questions about three different types of animals, one from Madagascar, one from the Congo, and one from the African plains, student Danny Bustamante explained. Danny also explained that at the end of the day, which was spent wandering in only the African animal portion of the zoo, his classmates had to make a chart listing the pros and cons of keeping animals in zoos, and had to take a stance one way or another.

Back at school, Ms. Collins and Ms. Voegel wanted to take the experience one step further. For the next few weeks, the students will be working on their district-issued computer tablets to create PowerPoint presentations focusing on one of the three animals they studied at the zoo. The assignment allows the students to learn more about what interested them specifically, at the same time practicing new technology applications that will be helpful later on.

Once finished, the students will have to present their projects to the class, teaching others about their own animals, and thus fulfilling another part of the Common Core curriculum, which is too understand a topic deeply enough to be able to teach it to fellow students.

“The trip provided the students with the firsthand research the children need that we can pull back into the classroom,” Ms. Voegel said. “Books will never not be a part of our daily learning, but any opportunity that we have for them to gain firsthand experience and see ties into learning while being in the moment is a good thing.”

Tuckahoe students will continue their study into Africa, and the rest of the continents, through December. Danny and his classmate Adrian Saldana said that seeing the animals up close really changed how they viewed them, noting that many were larger than they had imagined.

“The trip was fun for everyone,” Danny said. “We learned more about the animals and we got to see how big their hands and feet are.”

Adrian concurred, saying it was one of his favorite days so far this year.

“Everyone should go so they can experience the fun,” he said.

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