U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California

A Unit Of The Pacific Southwest Region

4th Graders Teach Peers about Endangered Species Using Service Website

May 16, 2019

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Fourth graders at Tice Creek School use U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website to learn about endangered species. Photo Credit: Laura Duggan, Tice Creek School.
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Photo of Ajayi reading signage to first graders
Ore Ajayi reads signage to first graders, as her co-presenter Arzoe Saluja looks on. Photo credit: Veronica Davison, USFWS.
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Photo of Ethan, Eric, and Cynthia
Ethan Haas, joined by his parents Eric and Cynthia, proudly shows off his endangered San Francisco Garter snake artwork. Photo credit: Veronica Davison, USFWS.
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Photo of Zealand Kubischta
"I learned don't invade the kit foxes territory because how would you feel if someone invaded your territory, like your house—people don't like being robbed," Zealand Kubischta. Veronica Davison, USFWS.
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Photo of desk with laptops and art work of the Least Tern Group
The endangered species research assignment allowed students to apply science, art, technology and communication skills to develop a website, brochure, presentation, and hand-drawn pictures. Veronica Davison, USFWS.

Tice Creek School is not your average elementary school. Located in Walnut Creek, California, the school's project-based approach to learning challenges students to work on real-world problems that have real-world outcomes. For the past four years, fourth-grade teachers Laura Duggan and Julie Elliott have assigned their students the task of researching endangered species. Unlike the typical class project, they have found a creative way to integrate science, art, technology, communication and critical thinking into this ambitious assignment.

Students select the endangered species they want to study and work in small groups to develop a website, brochure and presentation about the endangered species. Each student draws a picture of the species and takes a turn presenting information about it during a showcase attended by Tice Creek School students of all grades, parents and members of the public. According to Duggan, the project fulfills the Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools required by the state. "We looked at the next generation science standards and noticed the animal adaptations part of the unit. We also looked at regions of California, but we wanted something that would hook in our students and really get them caring about the plants and animals in California, and thus we settled on endangered animals as our inspiration for the project."

Duggan and Elliott discovered that the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office website houses information about endangered species written for students grades four through six. It serves as the primary source for the students' research. "We particularly like the website because the species accounts are written specifically to inform students about those animals," said Duggan. "If you look up the animal on [other sites], you might see it is not written at a fourth-grade level and it's all about how that organization is helping animals, which is great, but it's not specifically what the kids are looking for. My kids want to know how they can save birds, not necessarily about what [an organization] is doing."

Both parents and students are fans of the assignment. Cynthia Haas is the parent of a fourth-grader in Duggan's class and sees many of the benefits, "what they're doing at this school is just amazing. The way the kids are researching the information, gathering their information, setting the stage for a presentation at such a young age and increasing this awareness, outside of themselves and their school, is really incredible. And they're taking on the leadership role too."

Some students, like Arzoe Saluja, appreciate the independence the project offered, "It wasn't like she gave us a website. We actually got to go on the website and search randomly for information. It was challenging, but it was so much more fun because we got to think for ourselves. Ms. Duggan and Ms. Elliot, they weren't just handing us information, they actually were making us think for ourselves and find information to support our evidence." Zealand Kubischta personalized the plight of the endangered species and explained what he learned using an analogy most people can understand, "I learned don't invade the kit fox's territory because how would you feel if someone invaded your territory, like your house—people don't like being robbed."

Not only do the students learn through the researching the species they select, but also through teaching others about the species, why conservation is important and the role everyone can play in protecting species and their habitats. These fourth graders are developing skills that will help them throughout their education and beyond.

by Veronica Davison / SFWO External Affairs

Last updated: May 16, 2019