It all started with a kindergarten app designed to teach sight words, numbers, letters, addition and subtraction. For every three correct answers, students receive a coin. With these coins, children buy items to complete an aquarium including several varieties of fish, fish food, plants, gravel, sand, and décor. The fish swim about darting towards the digital-fed food and hide if the iPad screen is tapped. It is intriguing, engaging, and most of all FUN, even for certain teachers!
This led to a discussion of an appropriate classroom pet and how to keep it alive and healthy. Our class PBL (Project Based Learning) was launched with its many key elements: significant academic content with 21st century skills, a driving question, a need to know, student voice and choice, in-depth inquiry, revision and reflection, and a public audience.
The list included a dog, a cat, an ant, a snail, a fish, a whale, a butterfly, a worm, and a rabbit. It was decided that ants might tickle, and they would be hard to find at this time of year. A worm might be too squiggly, and a snail might be too slimy. A whale would be too big to fit through the door, and how would we transport it to school? A rabbit would just jump everywhere! Who would walk the dog? Who would clean up the messes left by the animals; no one put up their hands. It was suggested that the teachers could look after the animals on the weekend! Some children have allergies to certain animals, and some were afraid that they would bite.
A vote was taken and the majority ruled that an aquarium would be the best idea. We talked about the needs of a fish to keep this living thing alive and healthy. The children concluded that the fish needed clean water, a tank and food to eat. Some decorations would be nice. Everyone offered to help feed the fish and to keep the tank clean.
The children contributed to a class shopping list recorded by pictures and words using inventive spelling, and guesses of cost for each item. We then put forth a budget as children guesstimated how much money we would request from administration. The requests varied anywhere from 1 cent to 100 dollars. On Thursday, March 6th we headed to the office of Madame Fanjoy and presented our budget. Madame Fanjoy loved our idea of the fish tank and agreed to give us funding for a project that she deemed worthwhile and exciting.
The children “read” lots of books, examined colourful plastic fish, and visited wonderful places like Ripley’s Aquarium and pet stores. In response to a request for a possible family guest speaker with aquarium experience, one of our parents approached us with an amazing proposal. She had a client in the pet products industry eager to donate the needed supplies to set up our class aquarium and to provide a specialist to assist and educate us.
On April 3rd, Jae Hovius, Ontario Aquatic Specialist for Rolf C Hagen Inc., gave the JK class a captivating, informative, and hands-on session. He truly enjoyed the experience as much as the JK children did. On April 8th, we excitedly welcomed our two goldfish, and the children aptly named them Gill and Goldie-Antonio. Our much loved pets seem to have settled in well despite all the attention of the many inquisitive, beautiful faces peering at them through the glass.
The learning does not stop here. There will be so many observations to be performed, pictures to be drawn, photos to be taken, and responsibilities to be taken on. We are very excited about this project and look forward to sharing its progress with our KCS families and friends.
Sharon Freeman, RECE