Kindergarten Teacher


Learning About Penguins with Science Apps

This week one of the Wonderopolis wonders of the day was about Penguins. If you are not familiar with this great site read more about it HERE. The question was “Why Can’t Penguins Fly?” Instead of watching the video and reading the facts I instead decided to let the class predict and then investigate first. We had been learning about birds only a few days earlier so the topic was a perfect fit.

The first thing we did was make a list of reasons why the penguins can’t fly using the Popplet app

Then we used the FREE app ABCmouse set one to learn about penguins. When you click on the habitat it reads and shows different facts.

Then we used the World Book app of Animals. This one isn’t free but it has 185 different animals. I plan to use the app a lot this year. The app includes several images of each animal, a sound clip of the animal (for most of them), facts about the animal and the ability to compare animals.

The last app we used was Pocket Zoo HD. This app is unique because it has live webcams from zoos. As with any webcam the animals are not always there but the kids love checking and there were several penguin cams so we got to see some. There are also videos (pulled from YouTube) and we did watch one of them. I always preview these ahead of time! This app also has an audio sound for most of the animals and basic facts.

The logical next activity was exploring non-fiction books from our library. I always try to include “real” books when possible and the apps and videos are the hook that leads to them being excited about looking at the books.

The last step was to watch the Wonderopolis video and read the facts from the website. It was a fun day exploration in my class and I feel my kids have a strong knowledge of penguins and more importantly how animal features play an important part in where they live.

7 Responses to Learning About Penguins with Science Apps

  1. Andrea says:

    Hi Matt. Your days often sound wonderful but I wonder … do you have a classroom program that’s written ahead of time to meet certain outcomes? What happens to that? Where’s your accountability to cover certain preset content?

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Andrea, yes we have a curriculum and a set of standards I am expected to teach. The curriculum is a guide not a mandate (as it should be.). I have the freedom to adjust what we do as needed. I feel strongly that “where interest lies, learning occurs” so I often go with topics when kids show interest. Knowing the learning goals (in my case the TEKS) is important when going off script. I covered many of our science and writing learning objectives in the activity mentioned above while missing very little of our standard curriculum. I appreciate your comment!

  2. katie says:

    I agree that within any curriculum or set of standards that the children and the children’s interests need to be the driving force. This may require a teacher to be a bit creative in how the objectives are met. This definitely doesn’t mean that we aren’t accountable or neglecting the content, it means that we are taking interests into consideration and putting the children first – with the curriculum and standards falling into place after the children and interests are considered. In this wonderful lesson on penguins, I’m sure you could list a page of standards and curriculum objectives that were met – even if “penguins” are nowhere in the standards. I also agree that knowing the learning goals is key – we must stay accountable and be able to articulate the purpose of what we are teaching. If you do have a pre-written program or script you may want to look “between the lines” and see if and how it can be adapted to achieve the same outcomes via a path that allows you to follow interests and the children’s passions. Thank you for the wonderful post, Matt – and the thoughtful comments. Good things to think about!

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Katie, I think the key, as you stated, is understanding that we are accountable for the objectives and that you don’t need a set curriculum for that to take place. Appreciate you taking the time to comment.

  3. Faige says:

    Teachable moments weigh heavily with my teaching partner and myself. Sometimes these can’t wait. Going off script doesn’t mean curriculum is forgotten or dumped ! No matter where we teach, if nothing else, we are accountable to the children, to set up the best learning environment we can.

  4. weronko says:

    I was looking for a way to make a week long unit study on penguins more standards based and found your post right away. Thank you for sharing your great resources!

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