Each year I purchase the growing alligators from Educational Innovations for my Fourth Grade class. These growing alligators start at about three inches long and grow to over a foot long when placed in water! From this one item, I have developed lesson plans that incorporate Math, Science, Reading, Social Studies, Writing, Technology, and Language Arts!
Observation is the first action taken by learners to acquire new information about an organism; therefore, the first thing my students do is observe their polymer alligator. The students in the picture below are in the process of measuring the length, weight, circumference, and area of their polymer alligators. Students in my class also trace their alligators on graph paper then they calculate the area of each and eventually compare the area of their small (dehydrated) alligator to that of their fully grown alligator. (Math & Writing & Language). These measurements are compiled into a line graph for each student’s crocodile which aids students in making predictions about the rate of future growth of their growing reptile.
Students also use the information found on the back of the alligator package that gives facts related to alligators and crocodiles to guide them in research of the various types of crocodiles and alligators found around the world. Students then prepare a PowerPoint presentation they eventually present to the class, (Science, Social Studies, and Technology ) Students also incorporate that information into scientific reports on reptiles and amphibians. Their particular research focuses on these two different animals which have structures that enable them to function in unique and specific ways an example being how they obtain food. Students are also asked to give their “croc” a name then create a story about the life and times of their creature.
Finally, the data the students gather is then incorporated into their “Crocodile Chronicles”. We referred to the alligators as crocodiles for literary purposes, i.e. “Crocodile Chronicles” sounds better than Alligator Chronicles! Students then re-create the habitats of reptiles and amphibians using the data they discover through their exploration of where each creature lives, how they live, and what each reptile eats.
Students also conduct a series of experiments where they place one polymer alligator in salt water and another in pond water. They then create a class Venn diagram that visually depicts the similarities and differences between how the alligators grow and develop in salt water vs. pond water. The data collected from these experiments are also entered into each students’ Crocodile Chronicles.
Each year we invite our special needs friends to join us in this lesson so this gives my students an opportunity to mentor children that otherwise might have some challenges in working on this project. Let me tell you this, there is not a single student who does not LOVE this project! They enjoy it and learn so much at the same time!
I have created a booklet, Crocodile Chronicles, where students keep all of their measurement recordings, drawings, and stories about their crocodile. This booklet has a crocodile on the cover and its mouth is the closure of the booklet and Velcro is attached right at its mouth so each time the student opens their booklet it sounds as if the crocodile is taking a big bite! Oh, it is just a thrill for me to teach this unit and I appreciate Educational Innovations offering such tremendous tools for my students! It’s a gift for a teacher to come across materials that can be incorporated into cross-curricular lesson plans! That makes the job of teaching just that much easier! Thanks, Educational Innovations!
Jill Brown is a 4th Grade Teacher at Washington Grade Center in Ada, Oklahoma.