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Science at the Fernbank Museum

September 22, 2011

A group of 3rd grade students from Drew Charter School ventured on a trip to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, Georgia.  The team of teachers submitted a proposal to the Center for Teaching to organize and implement this science learning experience.  There were 3 sections to the learning experience:

All of the activities directly support the 3rd grade Earth and Life Science curriculum’s Georgia Performance Standards.

The Center for Teaching is interested in supporting curriculum development projects developed by Drew Charter and Westminster Schools teachers.  There are three directions to our work in faculty professional development: (1) advancing the Faculty Cohort Program; (2) promoting curriculum development at each school aligned to the school’s strategic needs; and (3) designing other professional development programs that promote each school’s strategic needs.

The field trip was quite interesting.  We were taken far away to the Galapagos Islands and given an IMAX tour of the forbidden volcanic landscape.  The tour showed us many of the Galapagos’ unique animal and plants species, both land and sea.  We saw the giant tortoises, the iguanas, the blue-footed boobies, Darwin’s finches, and many more.  We were then taken 300 feet below the sea to witness the rich aquatic life which included schools of colorful fish, pods of playful seals, and a group of graceful hammerhead sharks.  Finally, we went down to 3,000 feet below sea level and were treated to a rare glimpse of the dark and cold world inhabited by a few very unusual species of aquatic organisms.  The students seemed enthralled by the journey.

In the auditorium, we had a wonderful, student-friendly exploration of the dinosaur world and found out that excavations in Georgia have unearthed dinosaur fossils.  Click here for a link to a magazine article on the history of dinosaurs in Georgia that appeared in Georgia Voyager Magazine.  The paleontologist that gave the presentation asked the audience of about 100 2-4th graders lots of questions.  Every question was answered correctly by one or more members of the audience.  The students were on top of the dinosaur material.

After lunch, the students toured the permanent exhibit, A Walk Through Time in Georgia.  They were able to take what they have learned in the classroom and compare it to the information presented in the many exhibits.  Walking through the Appalachian Mountain, Piedmont, and coastal ecosystem exhibits, students were asked to visualize the key characteristics.  Many students brought disposable cameras and were snapping picture after to picture to catalog what they were seeing–sometimes indiscriminately.  Teachers are asking them to do some journal work as a way to process what they saw and learned.

Finally, the third grade teachers will be sharing their lesson and experience at the museum in the following ways:

  1. write an article for the CFT online newsletter;
  2. develop a curriculum unit (Smart Board maybe) that ties to the trip OR that comes out of the trip; and
  3. develop a post-trip assessment that measures what students learned from the trip.

This curriculum project and field trip fit seamlessly into the 3rd grade science scope and sequence bringing together classroom learning with learning out in the field, the field being the museum.

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