Sunday, March 20, 2016

Connected Project Update

My students have been working very hard this past week. As posted in earlier blogs, my 7th grade STEM class is completing an Enrichment Design Project. This project is one of my favorites because of the level of engagement from the students and how we have been able to work with our local nature center/zoo at Oxbow Park.

So, last week Thursday, my student visited the zoo and made their primary observations. On Friday, an Animal Caretaker came into the classroom and gave the class a run down of animal enrichment, the specific animal characteristics and preferences when it comes to designing toys for them. At this point, I hadn't even been able to really get into too much detail about the project with students. I was worried about this, because I didn't know if they would ask the right questions to the Animal Caretaker when she came in. However, I found out that the kids had no problems finding and thinking of questions to ask her. It always amazing me the creativity they demonstrate!

Monday was when I really gave in-depth directions for what I was expecting from students for the project. I didn't want to give away any limiting instructions on their designs, but I just let them know that it had to be (1) safe, and (2) they needed to show some sort of reasoning behind their design.

Then, I started to explain how I wanted students to connect outside of our local community. Each team, consisting of 3-4 students was required to write three blog posts throughout the project and include a final reflection. I've never had my students blog before, so I wasn't sure how much they would write, so I told them they had to write at least one paragraph per post. Below are some example of the posts I received. In the future, I will make sure students read other classmates' posts and respond.

The second added piece of "connectedness" I added to the project, was that I wanted students to reach out to global experts.

Again, never having done this before, I was a little concerned who they might hear back from. So, I told them they didn't need to worry about hearing back from the experts, but I wanted to see evidence that they tried to reach out.. Then I went into a little bit about email etiquette and what to expect.

Right away, I had one team send an email to a reporter who had written about Como Zoo and heard back. I had many students reach out to the MN Zoo and also some other zoos around the country. It will be interesting to see who hears back from their contacts.

Finally, on this past Friday, the students presented their prototypes to another Oxbow Animal Caretaker. I was very impressed by the students and their products. I think they were proud of them as well. Some of their "crazy" ideas on paper, actually became a reality because they were motivated and determined to create them!


This upcoming Monday, we will head back to the zoo to give the toys to the animals and see how they react!


  1. This is very exciting Katie. Were students able to read and comment each other's blogs? When students were reaching out to global experts, what specifically were they looking for?

    1. Yes, they were. Each student was required to respond at least once to another classmate's blog post. As for reaching out to experts, next time, I will give more guidance on this. Students did a pretty good job of knowing who they wanted to reach out for. Their objective was to find out more about their animal, and how other zoo/experts enrich these animals.