Four or five box turtles kept kindergarten summer school students busy during a recent visit to the McNair Elementary School courtyard.
Teacher Nicole Frank instructed the boys and girls, armed with notebooks and pencils, to observe the turtles they found and record what they saw in their journals. Kaitlynn Frost, an A+ program tutor and a junior at Hazelwood West High School, helped Frank keep the students on task.
“What is it doing? What does it look like?” Frank asked them as the turtles plodded through the grass and shrubs.
“It has orange spots,” one boy observed.
“Some of the kids don’t get to experience this courtyard. Every day, they walk by looking for the turtles,” said Frank, referring to students attending McNair from Russell Elementary, which is closed for construction this summer. “We watched Discovery Channel videos about turtles, completed several Promethean Board activities and we read non-fiction books on turtles, so the kids learned a lot about them.”
Frank said she used a Know, Want, Learned or KWL organizational strategy with the children. At the start of the lesson, she asked the children what they knew about turtles. Some students knew turtles have shells and they hide in them for protection. Frank then asked the students what they wanted to learn about turtles.
“When do they sleep?” “Do they have families?” “Do they lay eggs?” the students wanted to know.
“The third part of the KWL is, ‘What have you learned about turtles?’ The students took what they have learned about turtles to answer the questions that they asked prior to our unit,” said Frank. “After watching videos, reading books and completing several Promethean Board activities, students were able to answer these questions. They also walked away with more knowledge about different types of turtles, such as sea turtles.”
McNair’s courtyard has a grassy floor, a pond and fountain and there are flowers, shrubs and trees planted along the walls. The plants and shrubs provide habitats for birds, insects and reptiles while the pond has fish and attracts other animals looking for a drink. It makes an ideal living science laboratory for students, giving them opportunities for hands-on learning and allowing them to go outside for short periods of time.