DOE Lighthouse Grant Proposal:
Title: Elephant Biographies: a Technology Integrated Approach to the Study of Endangered
Contact: Barbara Peskin, Instructional Technology Specialist,
bpeskin11 at gmail.com.
Description: Elephant Biographies is thematic unit for the elementary grades. The project aligns with our second grade curriculum. Technology is essential to the success of the learning objectives of this integrated thematic unit. Students use the Elephant Sanctuary web site (www.elephants.com) which becomes a live, interactive text book for them, to study endangered Asian Elephants. Students author and present an Elephant Biographies booklet. Use of technology is also an essential component of the assessment tool for the unit. Students demonstrate what they have learned by creating their own Elephant Biographies booklet and through a multimedia presentation of the finished booklet to class peers and special visitors. The project requires cooperative learning, encourages analysis, exploration
and creativity, and meets the need of multiple learning styles. Through the unit, children gain an understanding of endangered species and extensive knowledge about elephant habitat, stresses on the environment that led to the species' endangered status, information about how elephants live in the wild and how a Sanctuary can create a natural habitat for them. The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee provides the primary teaching materials. Their web site, teleconferencing capability, and access to the Director through email, is the live text book teachers and students use. Teaching teachers to use technology and teach technology integrated unit aligns with the objectives of our School's technology plan.
Classroom Projects and Technology Use:
Students and teachers progress through several phases that employ teaching and learning
with technology, while incorporating the Mass State curriculum frameworks:
Information gathering and research phase - teachers and students study, discuss and analyze
information about endangered Asian elephants and additional lessons and materials provided through the Elephant Sanctuary web site. The Sanctuary web site teaches about elephants in general through extensive photos and description of the lives of the Asian Elephants living in their natural habitat at the Sanctuary. For example, photos and text discuss how elephants use mud (and engage in mud baths) to protect their skin from the sun. Teachers create instructional materials based on facts and information related to class discussion. This year the two classroom teachers and Technology Integration Specialist piloting this project created fact cards and database fact sheets (combining facts and photos) using the
ClarisWorks drawing program. Using the integrated technology allows teachers to create themulti-sensory learning experiences that facilitate active learning for a variety of learners including students with learning disabilities.
As the elephants are studied and questions arise which aren't addressed on the web site
or supplemental materials teachers have gathered, the Director of the Sanctuary is available by email to answer any questions. Her replies were returned within hours and she could provide general and very specific details. Students were aware of their fist hand research and reveled in their ability to get specific answers to questions triggered by class discussion. Towards the end of the unit students watched the Elephant Sanctuary videos, an exciting moment to see the elephants in motion (from the photos on the web site, and analysis done in creating the big wall chart, students were able to identify the elephants in the video). With funding, next year, we would purchase the hardware and software we need to take advantage of the Sanctuary's teleconferencing capabilities. They are part of Project Diane and the teleconference would further enhance teaching and learning, especially for these special
education learners who excel through a variety of teaching approaches. Social Studies standards 1, 3, 7, 8 and 10 are incorporated in this research and information gathering phase.