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Sandy Journal

Glacier Hills kindergartners rock scientific, technological learning

Jul 06, 2023 02:37PM ● By Julie Slama

Glacier Hills kindergartners observe African dwarf frogs and learn about their habitat as part of their science core curriculum. (Sarah Turner/Glacier Hills Elementary)

This summer, some kiddos may remember a thing or two if they scoop up a frog, hike a trail or even jump on a computer game.

During the past school year, Glacier Hills kindergartners in Sarah Turner’s class discovered the world around them through science and technology.

“We have frogs; they’re our class pets,” kindergartner Isla Call said. “We feed them and sometimes they nap.”

As a class, they decided to name the African dwarf frogs who took up residence in a tank in the classroom after being purchased online.

“We brainstormed a list of names, and we voted on which ones we thought went with the frogs,” Turner said. “It was the kids’ idea because they wanted to make our frogs feel welcome in the classroom.”

Kindergartner Ben Goslind said these frogs like water.

“We like to watch them and see what they do,” he said. “Sometimes, they hide.” 

Turner said learning about animals and their habitats is part of the kindergarten core curriculum.

“We researched where they would live in the wild,” she said. “They learned frogs would live in grass in the ponds and at the bottom of the pond, there’d be a lot of sediments, rocks and sand. So, the kids created a mural scene on paper representing that and glued it to the tank so it would create this environment for our frogs.”

It was part of teaching students how scientists make observations to learn more about a subject.

“The kids observed the frogs and like scientists, took notes in a little notepad. They made observations about the frogs’ behavior, what they were doing and anything they thought was noteworthy. One thing they discovered was the frogs had to swim up to the top of the water to get air about every 30 seconds. At first, they thought that the frog breathed like a fish since they lived in the water. They also practiced the process of notetaking, which is new for kindergarteners,” Turner said.

The students drew pictures, and through that, they realized the frogs’ back legs are longer, helping them kick and swim. 

“We’re able to make some cool observations and science connections, watching them and drawing what they saw. When they had questions, we could research and find the answers,” she said.

In addition to frogs, guest presenter Lorraine Turner visited the classroom with her Russian tortoise, Shelly.

“We tie in science and social studies a lot of times, so in this case our book of the week was about a boy and his pet tortoise. So, when the tortoise visited and the students got to watch it crawl around and ask questions about how she took care of it,” Turner said. “It was cool they could make some connections between the book and a real life tortoise.”

The school psychologist, Jamie Umcapher, brought in her Bernadoodle puppy that is being trained as a therapy dog.

“We got to ask her questions about like puppy’s needs and about training a dog and specifically, about training it to be a therapy dog,” she said.

That bridged the students into talking about their own pets. Many brought in photographs and explained to their classmates how they took care of their own dogs, cats, fish, hamsters and others.

“We learned that in some ways they were alike, needing food and a place to live, but they also had differences,” she said, adding that the class talked about habitats of other wild animals, such as penguins, arctic foxes and owls.

That was something that kindergartner Lucas Shroeder appreciated.

“It was fun to learn about all the different animals,” he said.

The students also learned more about plant life when they planted paperwhite bulbs in the winter, tracked their growth and watched as they bloomed into “beautiful little white flowers” before the winter break. They took them home over the holidays.

“Science is so important because it opens their eyes to how wonderful and magical the world around them is,” Turner said. “Learning about all these amazing things that happen right outside our window—plants, wild animals, being able to look at their pets and thinking more critically about, what does my pet needs? How can I be a good pet owner?”

Kindergartner Spencer Slater related it to the universe, appreciating that they all live under the same night sky in the universe.

“It’s beautiful how the solar system is bigger than all of us, yet we all need it,” he said.

Turner also extended the students’ learning to technology and the engineering process. In the spring, they put those principles in place when they created their own leprechaun traps.

Classmate Ellie Bollwinkle said that they used a combination of things to make the trap, which the leprechaun broke. Although the leprechaun left shiny green necklaces for the students, he also left a mess.

“It was a big mess,” she said. “Why didn’t he clean it up?”

“It’s kind of fun to see little kids learn big words, but they understand them. They first defined a problem and then brainstormed different ways to solve the problem. They made a plan and after an initial version, we discussed how to improve our leprechaun traps before making the final trap,” Turner said. “Afterward, I had kids saying, ‘I want to be an engineer because I want to solve world problems.’”

Earlier in the year, the kindergartners were engaged in hands-on technology, participating in a coding workshop by two guest software engineers.

“They worked with the kids to explain what coding is and how you can use code to control a computer and then we broke the kids up into groups to actually write a little piece of code,” Turner said. “Technology and science are essential. There are so many technology-based jobs in our world, so right now getting kids excited about that and getting them doing hands-on learning is important.” λ