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Around-the-World Zoo



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The Basic Biology classes at LaSalle-Peru Township High School in LaSalle, Illinios design and maintain a zoo website. Basic Biology is an introductory level biology class for sophomores. The class size is usually around 20 students. Generally, the students have lower abilities in both math and reading. Many are diagnosed with learning disabilities. The students begin this project at the start of the second semester and continue with it until the end of the school year.

This zoo project covers the following curriculum areas:

Through this project the students are able to:

The students use technology throughout this project. The classroom has five networked computers. One of the computers is a Destination, so students can use it for presentations. The students use the computer reference tools (i.e. SIRS) available through the library in addition to CD-rom encyclopedias for research. They also have access to the Internet. The students e-mail experts in the animal field, such as zoo keepers, veterinarians, and zoology professors. The students use Power Point or Hyperstudio for classroom presentations. They create their own homepage for the zoo using Pagemill. They communicate with other students around the world after the zoo is designed.

Much of the work is done in the classroom. Our class periods are 50 minutes long and we meet every day. If the students need, or desire, additional time they have access to the classroom or the library computer lab before and after school.

The students write in journals at the end of each day, which becomes part of their assessment. They write down what they found, questions they have, problems/solutions, etc. The teacher collects the journal each week.



As a welcoming back and "get-to-know" again activity after winter break, the teacher asks the students to divide into two groups based on an observable trait. The students quickly move--boys on one side of the room, girls on the other (just like a middle school dance!). "Now, I want you to divide the two groups again to form four groups. Remember to use an observable trait," instructs the teacher. There is a little more discussion (arguing) this time. The girls decide to divide the group based on hair color. The boys divide based on the type of shoe they are wearing. The teacher asks, "What is the purpose of grouping things? Why do we have to group things in science?" The students discuss this in groups of four around their table and then share their ideas.

The teacher then gives each group a picture of an organism. The students must classify the organism as an animal or a plant. This leads the students to find out what characteristics make something a plant or an animal. At the end of the period, the teacher reveals that this is what we are going to be doing the rest of the semester--classifying animals.

The students form groups to study the different phylums in the Animal Kingdom. They use their books to find some starting information and then add to it with examples from the Internet. The students create presentations to teach the class about their phylum using PowerPoint. The students use the Destination computer to teach the class about their phylum.



The students begin designing the zoo. They have to decide how to arrange the zoo--by phylum, by habitat, by biome, by continent. The students research how other zoos are organized. They visit the homepages of the San Diego Zoo and the Brookfield Zoo. Some students e-mail the zoo directors to ask why their zoos are designed the way they are. They discuss the benefits and cons for each arrangement.

"Some animals live on more than one continent, so it would be hard to arrange the zoo that way," states John.

"If we do it by phylum, we will have to duplicate a lot of habitats. Animals may be in different phylums, but they can have the same habitats," adds Lindsay.

Veronica has a popular suggestion. "Why don't we arrange the zoo by biome. That way we can show how animals are adapted to live in certain climates?!"

The students vote to organize the zoo based on biomes. The students then form groups based on different biomes. They work to re-create the biome for the zoo homepage. After the students finish their part of the homepage, they peer-evaluate each other, offering suggestions for improvements. The students then make adjustments to their zoo. The class discusses how their biomes should be evaluated. They develop a rubric and the teacher uses this for evaluation purposes.



The students maintain their zoo and add animals to its collection. The teacher advertises the zoo in the Illinios Science Teachers Association, the National Science Teachers Association, and the National Association of Biology Teachers newsletters. The advertisement asks for students to visit the "Around-the-World Zoo" and to send pictures and information about their favorite animals. The students use the Internet to find websites for schools around the world. They send e-mail to the schools to advertise their zoo.

The students sign up to maintain the zoo for a week. They check the e-mail every day at the end of the class period. They print out the messages and file them for Friday's zoo workday--improvements to the zoo, animals to classify, and questions to answer.

On Friday, groups of students work on the files. The group with the improvement e-mails discuss if any changes should be made. "Should we add more rocks to the snakes' habitats?" If they want to make changes, they write a proposal for the class to read before a vote is taken.

The group in charge of classifying animals, uses information from books and the Internet to help them decide how to classify each animal sent to them. One organism is very strange and the students do not know what to do with it.

"I think it's a mammal because it has a little hair, but I'm not sure."

"Why don't we send an e-mail to a zoology professor at the University of Illinois?" The students start typing their message.

A third grade class has been visiting the zoo. They have sent the students many questions about the animal:

The students find the answers to the third graders questions and reply back to them.

The teacher moves from group to group. She directs students to resources if they hit a roadblock. She asks the students for their reasons for classifying organisms into certain phyla. She shares the student's excitement when they receive a reply back from the zoology professor. She enjoys reading the letters from the third graders and monitors the responses that are sent back to them.


Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office, Friends of Fermilab, United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, and North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium (NCRTEC) which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL).


Author: Rebecca Potratz (potratz@concentric.net)
School: LaSalle-Peru Township High School, LaSalle, Illinois
Created: May 6, 1998- Updated:
URL: /lincon/w98/projects/zoo/scenario.html