Building Animal Habitats with STEM Toys
Do your students love to learn about animals and their habitats? I know the answer is, “Yes!” This is always a favorite topic anytime of the year. We started this lesson by learning about many kinds of animals and where they live. I let the students guide the choices for the most part but you can help your students focus on the animals suggested by your curriculum or their interests. After we had read many books, created pictures and had several discussions I wanted to assess their understanding of habitats and the animals that live in them.
Choosing the Materials to Use
I wanted the students to represent their learning in a different way. We could draw or we could write or we could do something different. Different is a lot more engaging for this lesson. I chose to use STEM type toys that hey had previously used in class. They were able to use legos, Keva Blocks, building sets of various kinds and Tinker Toys.
Grouping the Students for Learning
There are six tables in this setting so students usually work in small groups of 4-5. Each table had one building toy on the table. After they got in their group they first had to choose the habitat they were going to represent. For some groups it was a bit harder to narrow down their habitat but when they learned they would get to build at least 3 habitats that helped them to get started. They would get to build three because they would rotate after 20 minutes to a new set of building toys. During the 20 minute time frame they were to build their chosen habitat and prepare to few sentences to share with the group about their habitat. They loved building the habitats! They were so invested in getting the details right even with the challenges their materials may have presented. In the picture below one group chose the rain forest and they used the Keva Blocks to create it! Some materials were definitely easier for some habitats. This was a natural challenge created by the materials not the teacher! Keva Blocks are very popular with students. When I saw these in several children’s museums and watched children use them I knew they were a STEM toy winner.
Sharing their Learning
I reminded the students throughout the 20 minutes that they needed to have some conversation about their habitat and to think about what they would say to the group. In this setting I had a limited time with the students but if I was in a classroom setting I would have them write a couple of sentences down to share. I always give five minute warnings to let them know to be ready. When time was up all the children came to the carpet and then each group went to their habitat one at a time to share for about 2-3 minutes. Their descriptions were entertaining and full of detail! After the children shared they moved to a new set of building materials to begin again. It was difficult for them to see their habitats being taken apart (always!). I helped with this by taking a photo of each group with their habitat immediately after they presented. These photos created a bulletin board that helped to remind them of what they had created. I labeled the photo with the name of the habitat they had created. Check out the photo below to see some of the habitats they created!
I love doing this lesson with the students. We talked about animal habitats and we used materials in a different way. All in all a perfect lesson!