Fay Mascot...Coming Soon!
At Fay, we think about how to design meaningful, authentic learning experiences for our students. When we create opportunities for them to impact our campus and the greater community, we cultivate student voice, leadership, and engagement.
Our Second Graders are busy doing this particular kind of work – putting their stamp on The Fay School’s history, while simultaneously reading, researching, writing informational texts, exploring animal science, and creating through art and technology. In partnership with The Houston Zoo’s “Mascots for Wildlife Program,” our Fay Second Graders have evolved into animal experts through a Project Based Learning unit, as they address the driving question: What actions can we take to save our animal neighbors?
Project Based Learning
Project Based Learning (PBL) is Driving questions are meant to be complex, aimed towards solving a problem or investigating an authentic topic. Using the Driving Question, students brainstorm a list of “Need to Knows,” or things they must learn about to address the challenge presented.
In designing robust PBL units, teachers can integrate multiple subjects, making connections to a project throughout the school day. When the curriculum is integrated, students develop a deeper understanding of the content and recognize the learning purpose. According to Buck Institute For Education, the seven essential project design elements of “Gold Standard PBL” are: a challenging problem or question, sustained inquiry, authenticity, student voice and choice, reflection, critique and revision, and a public product. Not only is PBL a powerful tool for teaching academic content, but it has been shown to improve 21st century learning goals such as critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and collaboration. Compared to a traditional method of “doing a project,” a PBL classroom is marked by lively discussion and higher-order thinking. The teacher acts as a guide, following where the project, and student interests, lead.
To launch this project, Second Graders chose a Texas-native species they were interested in investigating. Then, classes were presented with the driving question: What actions can we take to save our animal neighbors? Collectively, students brainstormed a list of “Need to Know” questions, including What kind of habitat do these animals live in? What do the animals spend their time doing? What do they eat? These questions directed the reading and research to follow. Students were thrilled when specialists at the Houston Zoo met with them via Zoom to share fun facts, answer questions, and discuss the amazing animals in our backyard.
Weaving Reading Workshop into the project, teachers equipped students with nonfiction reading skills, such as using text features to locate key facts and information. Students practiced these skills with books about their selected animals. In Writing Workshop, students began by writing informational texts about topics they know a lot about – Pokémon, Halloween, hip hop, etc. With this foundation, they progressed to writing about their animals as experts, using all the information they had learned. Students acquired scientific vocabulary related to wildlife conservation and brainstormed ideas to support these animals in the wild.
With the use of a stop motion animation program in STEAM class, students are directing and publishing their own video clips starring these native animals.
Help Us Decide
An essential element of Project Based Learning is a public product. Providing students with an audience makes a project authentic and allows students to showcase their creativity. With this project, the Fay community is our audience, as you will have the opportunity to help us select a school mascot!
Once Second Graders have voted to narrow down the choices, we will need your help in making the final decision. Stay tuned to cast your vote! What will Fay’s mascot be?!
About the authors: Alex Cammarota (Learning Specialist) and Melissa Sherman (Principal) have only worked together for two years, but in addition to their love of learning at The Fay School, they share an alma mater- Vanderbilt University! Alex and Melissa lived in Nashville at the same time for seven years. Little did they know they were teaching/learning across the street from one another for most of that time, both frequenting Peabody classrooms, Jeni’s ice cream, and even having a student in common!