Over the past month, I have had the opportunity to work with first graders in Ms. Miryam Shajrah’s class at William Ford on a very exciting PBL project, the Virtual Zoo.

Ms. Shajrah’s first graders conducted research on an animal of their choosing, including such facts as habitat, diet, and skin covering.  The students then wrote an informational piece describing their findings.  Their report included a picture as well as a 3-dimensional diorama of the animal’s natural habitat.  Students discussed where the animals should be placed in a zoo setting, keeping natural predators separate from prey.  They then drew maps of the zoo, including gift shops and food courts.  The students did a phenomenal job!

Then technology came in.

Using Screencastify, the students were recorded giving their presentations of their animal research.  Once all students were recorded, the recordings were uploaded to the Virtual Zoo blog, and assigned QR codes.  The QR codes were attached to the dioramas.

Then, the visitors came.

On Opening Day of the Virtual Zoo, classes from William Ford and special guests from around the district came to visit.  Upon entering the zoo, visitors were met by a greeter, who welcomed them and pointed out the student-drawn maps used to guide their visit.   Visitors were able to roam freely throughout the zoo, listening to presentations, admiring dioramas, and using their phones and iPads to scan the QR codes to watch the students’ recorded presentations.  The Virtual Zoo blog was also on display.  The students had a “gift shop” and a “concession stand” as well!

Visitors oohed and ahhed over the dioramas, writing, and recorded presentations.  A great time was had by all!  This is an excellent example of PBL in action.  The lesson combined science, social studies, language arts and technology!

You can check out the Virtual Zoo here!  Click on the tabs under the heading to view each habitat and all the recordings that go along with it.

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