From Ms. Kelley and Ms. Jill

One of our favorite Topic Studies this year in the Penguins’ class was “Animals and Their Habitats!” Throughout the school year, my students were fascinated with animals and were constantly talking about their favorites, playing animals or “zoo” or using the various animals figurines with blocks, sensory bins and other manipulatives. They really enjoyed observing and interacting with the animals at our school-wide fall field trip to Crowe’s Nest Farm and when Zoofari visited our school, also in the fall.

As we observed their interest in learning more about each species and how they live, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to dig deeper and set out on a Topic Study of Animals and Their Habitats. We studied various animals over the course of 8 weeks, and each week, we focused on a certain group of animals, their characteristics and how and where they live.

We learned about everything from animals in tropical environments like the jungle to animals and their life underwater in the ocean. We explored each group through children’s literature, observing them in their natural habitats through media on the SMART Board, examining different animal coverings and textures like feathers, fur, scales and more, their footprints, fins and skeletons and how they move, and different aspects of unique animals, like how whales’ blubber keeps them warm.

The Penguins took a class field trip to the Exotic Zoo Resort in Johnson City, Texas at the outset of our Topic Study. We did this at the beginning to further inspire the kids and have a hands-on experience with animals like camels, giraffes, buffalo and others that aren’t usually at the traditional zoo.

As we studied different animals and their habitats as a class, each student chose a unique animal that particularly interested them. We guided each of them as they researched it further and learned about the details of the animal’s habitat like whether it lived in a hot, cold or temperate climate and how where they lived affected their bodily makeup. They looked at what they ate in their environment, how the animal sleeps and how they play. As they went through this process, we incorporated “mini-presentations” in class, where the kids would share the information they learned by describing photographs to the class. This helped prepare them for our final presentation later in the year.

As the kids learned, they created visual representations of all of the animals of interest and we displayed them throughout our classroom. In addition, we helped them gather materials so each child could create a colorful, detailed diorama with of the animal they chose and its habitat.

Our Topic Study culminated in a presentation of the kids animal artwork, their dioramas as we presented our “Penguins’ Class Zoo” to families and other students. Each of the kids showcased his or her animal diorama they had created and were able to share all that they had learned about that particular animal and its habitat.

Our Animal and Their Habitats Topic Study really expanded on the kids’ general interest in animals. Their overall fascination of animals and how they live inspired an in-depth exploration of their favorites as well as new knowledge about animals they had never seen or heard about prior. We had a great time throughout!

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