We carefully prepare the environment to provide students with resources that pique their interest in a variety of subject matters. To that end, we keep our shelves stocked with all manner of objects: books, math manipulatives, and natural specimens. One day recently, a student picked up our dried starfish specimen from the shelf and began to examine it. “How do starfish eat, anyway?” he pondered. Let’s find out…
The encyclopedia revealed this explanation, as retold by the student:
The starfish uses its arms to grab its prey and pulls it apart and closer to the hole in the middle. It has this part of its stomach that comes out and surrounds the food and pulls it inside its body to eat it.
This website yielded a similar explanation.
We found this video to watch a starfish eating.
We decided to draw a picture to explain to others how starfish eat.
It is within this inquiry-based framework that much of the learning at our school (and in the child’s world!) takes place. From this single question, sparked from a child’s natural curiosity about his surroundings, so much learning took place: we utilized a variety of resources to gather information, the student had the opportunity to practice reading and writing for a relevant purpose, and the student rephrased and summarized information for his peers. And it was fun!
Our 10 Gallon Tank
Bristlebert, a bristle-nose pleco
For our second week of school we studied fish. Specifically we focused on freshwater fish, but we did not limit ourselves. One of our goals for the week was to buy some new fish for our ten-gallon tank. We took a field trip to AquaTek, where we saw several kinds of both freshwater and saltwater fish. The largest fish we saw was about 8 inches long, and the most expensive fish were over $100! The staff was a great resource in helping us to pick out some new fish. We bought 3 white cloud fish, two assassin snails and one adorable bristle-nose pleco (an algae eater).
The arapaima, which can be up to 8 feet long!
In the classroom, we researched all kinds of fish using our encyclopedias, books about fish and the internet. We discovered one of the largest freshwater fish in the world: the arapaima of Brazil. This fish has been hunted for its supposedly tasty flesh to the extent that it is now unusual to find such long specimens, but some have been caught that measured between 7 and 8 feet long.
We discussed smaller fish, where they live, what they eat and how they fit into their ecosystems. On a visit to Waller Creek, which runs along our schoolyard, we observed the tiny fish swimming in the few puddles left in the nearly dry creek bed. We collected specimens of algae for later observation.
For one of the students, this sparked an investigation of the famous Loch Ness Monster. After researching the many theories surrounding this legendary creature, we created our own vision of Nessie.
Some of our favorite books are the Rainbow Fish books, by Marcus Pfister. After reading them all, we made our own beautiful fish.