Lenape Elementary School Grade 5 students in Elaine Thomas’s class recently invited their families to a special presentation on natural disasters. Students greeted their guests at the school entryway and escorted each person to their seats in the classroom, where impressive homemade models and colorful project exhibits of historic incidents with volcanoes, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes and more were on display. English as a New Language teacher Rosemary Sharpe and Special Education teacher Kristen Lown supported the students in their preparations and presentations as well.
The projects were a testament to the critical thinking skills the students applied while creating the models — including data collection, design of charts and diagrams, and formation of scientific explanations and insights. Students prepared for the assignment by practicing careful note-taking, learning citations and how to avoid plagiarism as they read the I Survived book series by Lauren Tarshis — a series of stories of natural disasters from history told through the voice of a child.
“This multidisciplinary assignment was designed to incorporate science and social studies, while fostering reading comprehension, teamwork, speaking and listening skills, and learning to work through mistakes,” explained Lown. “The goal being to foster lifelong learners of nature, which can be both beautiful or disastrous.”
Student teams then took the stage to present their projects, with each member taking a turn to speak, utilizing not only their newly acquired scientific knowledge, but their developing public speaking skills as well. Some students high-fived or fist-bumped each other at the conclusion of their presentation, signaling camaraderie and messaging a “job well done” to each other. “You did good!” one student whispered to a nervous classmate.