Our fourth graders had a zoo trip planned last fall and so did I! Our zoo was here though. I had the students work in partners to choose an animal that is found at our zoo, research it, and create a zoo exhibit for that animal. This was the first project I used a rubric for with my 4th graders and it took us a while to complete, but I think there were so many things it included that they were able to learn about. I used my first rubric with a media class last year and it helped the kids and me stay on track for what was expected that I used them now with all the big projects I do 3-5.
But, I digress. For this project, the students had to choose an animal, research it, write out feeding instructions for the zookeeper (what type of food, how much, how often it eats, etc.), design the exhibit and include a key for the drawing, design an informational sign for the visitors, and include citations. All in all they did well – the ones that didn’t get a good grade most often didn’t do any citations or didn’t finish, so I know those are two areas I need to work on more next year. (They did have a citations form and we talked about it every class.) I did show them lots of pictures from our wonderful NC state zoo in Asheboro to give them ideas on things like how to design an exhibit that will keep the animals in, but let visitors see them and also showed some of the information signs. We also talked about thinking about what the animals need to be happy – do they like to be alone or in groups, what will they do, what do they like to have in their habitat, etc.
What worked best for me was to make a packet for each group with the rubric on top, a citation form, research form, space for the exhibit, and the zookeeper instructions so they had everything there in one place and we could review the rubric and expectations every class. We used a variety of sites, but the most helpful ones were probably National Geographic Kids and San Diego Zoo. Here are couple of photos from the project, I wish I had taken more! Most of the pictures I took with my document camera and put in my SMART notebook to show kids next year. (My camera was taking very dark pictures for a while – sorry about that!) They came up with lots of neat ideas including things like clear tunnels visitors could walk through the exhibit in, area square footage notes, nesting areas, and more. I think they really learned a lot!