"One of the greatest joys of teaching Gifted and Talented students is the ability to allow students to build understanding through creative opportunities."
The future of our world is in our classrooms today. This is a critical aspect of our 5th grade Gifted & Talented classroom theme, “We Are Change Makers.” The most central question though is, how are we fostering students’ desire and passions to make a positive impact on the world of the present and of the future? In many classrooms around the world, students are diving deep into real-life issues and solving critical problems that currently present challenges such as climate change, rising sea levels, deforestation, and threats to biodiversity. We, as change makers, are up to the challenge.
Beginning with the End in Mind
When thinking about how best to design my units, I always begin with the ending. What do I want my students to know and be able to do at the conclusion of our unit? What real-world experiences can I provide them to help them build their understanding while also challenging their schema? When using backward design in planning, the teacher is able to create a results-focused unit that has a clear destination. Furthermore, it allows for lessons that work directly toward the desired end result.
Let Your Mind Wander
One of the greatest joys of teaching Gifted and Talented students is the ability to allow students to build understanding through creative opportunities. In this unit, we studied conservation including the lack of access to fresh water, renewable energy, biodiversity, and sustainability. Our culminating activity for this unit is an action plan, using Earth Echo’s action plan template. Students are challenged with creating a plan to solve an issue regarding conservation to our local habits.
Demonstrating Our Understanding
In working toward the final project, students were tasked with creating a piece of recycled artwork in which they used recycled materials to create art to reinforce the understanding that trash doesn’t have to be thrown away, but can be turned into something beautiful. Using the Wipebook Flipcharts, students planned their artwork and organized job responsibilities. I then used the Wipebook App, photos were taken of their planning and added to their Google Slides for this unit.
In creating their action plan, it was vital that students know the terminology and how everything was inter-connected. To accomplish this task, we used terms from our unit vocabulary to discuss and make connections between key terms. In this instance, students focused on terms related to biodiversity. Using two different colored markers, red and green, they discussed positive and negative connections between the terms. For example, students stated that, “Biodiversity can be threatened by invasive species,” and, “A habitat that is being protected will have a thriving ecosystem.” With this understanding of connections, they moved on to their action plan. We focused on several guiding questions to help us organize our action plan.
- What is a threat to sustainability in our local ecosystems?
- How big of a problem is this threat?
- What can be done to solve the problem?
To help us answer these questions, I had a guest speaker come speak to the students about Coastal biodiversity. This further helped them build their understanding of threats to local ecosystems in order to develop their action plan.
Cagney Weaver, Biloxi Upper Elementary School, Biloxi Public Schools Board.
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