Strategy Share: Interdisciplinary Learning With Young Explorer Magazine

This post was written by educator Kimi Waite. Read our Educator Spotlight on Kimi here.

Hi to all the global citizens, explorers, and educators! In my previous post, I shared how my aviation-filled childhood helped me to not only become a global citizen and explorer, but a scientist and teacher of scientists. I’m teaching my kindergarten students to be scientists, since they have such a pure sense of wonder, curiosity, and excitement about the world, and are natural problem-solvers. They are bursting with inspiring and thoughtful questions, and their ability to make connections about our interconnected world amazes me every day.

Engagement for an Interconnected World 

To inspire their wonder, curiosity, and excitement, I’m always searching for materials to engage my students with our interconnected world, and empower them with exposure to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, National Geographic Explorers, and other experts. I love National Geographic Young Explorer magazine because of the amazing interdisciplinary connections it provides, the exciting stories, and the captivating images that instill a sense of wonder. I also appreciate that I can use this resource to meet kindergarten literacy standards.

Our favorite issues of Young Explorer magazine. Photo by Kimi Waite.

These are some literacy strategies that I’ve used with the issues so far:

  • Book handling skills
  • Choral reading
  • Making predictions like scientists
  • Playing detective for uppercase and lowercase letters, punctuation, sight words, letter of the week
  • Playing detective for informational text features like labels, captions, and page numbers

While all the issues are awesome and inspiring, our favorites have let us explore like paleontologists while learning about dinosaurs and like ichthyologists and oceanographers while learning about fish and the sea.

Exploring Like Paleontologists

Science, literacy, and social studies connections. 
Photo by Kimi Waite.

In the fall, I used the fantastic book The Dinosaur Expert by Margaret McNamara and G. Brian Karas to inspire my future scientists, explorers, and conservationists. When Young Explorer magazine, Vol. 18, No. 3, arrived with a dinosaur on the front cover, there were squeals of excitement and delight! My student paleontologists loved searching for the labels, and categorizing which dinosaurs ate meat and which dinosaurs ate plants. We learned about past tense verbs and made connections between animals in the present that might be related to dinosaurs. We watched videos of paleontologists excavating fossils and going on expeditions, and talked about what tools paleontologists use in the field.

The highlight of their learning was having the tactile experience of being paleontologists and making interdisciplinary connections with social studies, writing, and math. I purchased a fossil kit from the Western Science Center at the California Science Teachers Association annual conference, and it was the perfect complement to our magazine. On their excavation expedition, the kindergarten paleontologists

  • measured each sample;
  • recorded findings in a paleontologist notebook;
  • made observations about shape, color, and texture;
  • made predictions about which part of the body the sample was from; and
  • checked predictions with the provided photograph cards.
A kindergarten paleontologist making
discoveries during the excavation!
Photo by Kimi Waite.

After a journey to the past to learn about dinosaurs and explore like paleontologists, we came back to the present to explore like ichthyologists and oceanographers!

Exploring Like Ichthyologists and Oceanographers

This year my class has partnered with National Geographic Explorer Joe Cutler as part of the National Geographic Educator + Explorer Exchange, a yearlong collaboration between pairs of explorers and National Geographic Certified Educators. My kindergarten ichthyologists have been learning all about fish and are engineering prototypes to help Joe with his work.

Due to our year-long partnership with Joe, the kindergarten ichthyologists are excited about all things fish related, and were so delighted by the “Let It Glow” feature on bioluminescent fish and ocean animals in Young Explorer magazine Vol. 18, No. 4. They learned about why ocean animals glow, why this is a strategy for survival, and why they live in the darkest zone of the ocean. This feature gave them great background knowledge for a field trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, where they found lots of bioluminescent animals. To enhance their curiosity, we studied the zones of the ocean and learned about which ocean animals live in each zone. We also used The Ink-Credible Cephalopod Coloring Book by Sarah J McAnulty and learned more about our favorite cephalopod, the bobtail squid!

Searching for bioluminescent ocean animals
Photo by Kimi Waite.
Arts, science, and writing integration. Learning which ocean animals live in each ocean zone.
Photo by Kimi Waite.

Never underestimate the power of the small: ocean animals and kindergarteners alike! I can’t wait to share more strategies for using National Geographic Education resources in the kindergarten classroom.

Kimi Waite is a California-based educator-explorer who integrates engineering and conservation in her curricula and teaching strategies. She and her students dream of making the world a more awesome place for all living beings.

Learn more about Explorer magazine and our K–5/6 classroom resource, and subscribe today!

Want to become a National Geographic Certified Educator? Sign up to be in the next cohort and become eligible to apply for opportunities to connect with National Geographic Explorers—like Kimi did with Joe Cutler.

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