Educator Spotlight: Inspiring Environmental Connection through Technology in the Classroom

Photo by Cecil Conley
Photo by Cecil Conley

Stacie Ryan is a third-grade teacher at Anna Kyle Elementary School in Fairfield, California.

Activity: Biome Investigation Research Project

Subjects: technology, geography, conservation, environment

Grade: 3rd

Tell us about your activity.

Students worked in groups of three to research the climate, animals, and plants in a self-selected biome. Using multiple online and text resources, students learned about why some plants and animals in their biome have become endangered.

After writing research papers and working with their peers to edit and revise their reports, students created a book using Shutterfly’s Photo Story app. Students had to take or collect photos. Some photo research also included finding free-license photos to illustrate their books. They then selected the format, font, and layout for their books.

After their books were completed, students used the app’s audio option to record themselves reading their reports. Students enjoyed sharing their final products with classmates. 

How long did this activity take and what did you need to prepare ahead of time?

This activity took 6 weeks. My class is a 1:1 iPad class, so each student had an iPad for work and research.

Students work on research in the classroom.
Photo by Stacie Ryan

Prior to starting the project, I created a Google Slides presentation to outline the essential questions we would use to drive our work. I also created a Voki to present the project to my students, posted posters with QR codes, and provided blog pages that listed a number of resources. Students learned to use the voice feature of Google Search to combat the frequent inaccuracies we encountered in students spelling foreign place-names.

Describe the student impact of this lesson. Was there a change in thought process, behavior, perspective?

Throughout the course of the project, most students became very concerned about the plight of endangered animals and flowers in their biomes. They came up with a list of things they could do, and get others to do, to help. They became concerned about electricity usage and recycling, as well as about how we are connected to those around us.

Any advice for educators who want to help students become global and interdisciplinary thinkers? Are there specific teaching methods or technologies you use to help students to connect with the outside world?

In order to help my students become global and interdisciplinary thinkers, I start the year with a citizenship unit and teach them that their opinions and actions are important. We read a lot of news articles from a variety of sources about kids around the world, and how those kids deal with many different situations. We discuss how these situations affect us in Fairfield, how we would react in the same circumstances, and what we can do to change the outcomes based on what we know.

Do you have a favorite book, blog, or quote that inspires you in your personal life or in your teaching?

“Try not to have a good time…this is supposed to be educational.”
—Charles M. Schulz

Get started with Nat Geo! Use the Great Nature Project’s learning missions to get started on your own backyard biome project!

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The Educator Spotlight series features inspiring activities and lessons that educators are implementing with their students that connect them to the world in bold and exciting ways.

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