Kindergarten Teacher


Living Centers In Elementary Classrooms

I posted the information below last summer about living centers in my class. I had some great success with many of them and not so much with others. What I do know for sure is that I want them all back again this year and I might even add a couple more. The forest floor terrarium was by far the most successful but we learned a lot from all o the centers. We raised some crayfish in the aquarium, explored hermit crabs at the beach and our pet beta was fun to feed all year. I was always taken back by how much time the kids will spend observing these living centers and how often they fit into our curriculum.

One of the great things that happened in my class last year was the decomposing bucket. (read about it here) The success of that “living center” has led me to add more living centers to my class this year. As I planned these centers this summer I intended to have them all set up and ready to go when the class arrived the first day. The more I thought about why the decomposing bucket was so successful the more I began to think that the class being involved with the process was important. So today when the kids walked in to the class today for meet the teacher I had four living centers with a minimal set up and one partially setup. (shown below)

I loved the wonder and questions I got from the kids as they (and parents) looked at these centers.

Student- “There is nothing there!”  Me- “Are you sure”

Student- “I think a lizard is in there?” Me- “Why do you think that”

Student- “Why are there rocks in here?” Me- I wonder that too”

I plan to let the kids ask questions and explore the centers the first few weeks before we begin to plan what living things to add to them. We will research different habitats, the needs of animals and problem solve to decide what will actually work in each center.

Here are the living centers I have planned for now…

The aquarium– 2.5 gallon tank with two living plants and rocks.

The beach tank– sand, shells and some driftwood. Of course it is a setup for hermit crabs but I’m curious to see what else we might come up with.

The desert tank– Rocks, wood and a part of a fake plant

The Forest Floor Tank- soil, sticks, a few rocks and organic matter

The wetland- Inspired by this post. I already added a Beta to this center so it is more setup than the others. This center is more for me (I love water gardens) and I plan to add some fun plants later in the year.

9 Responses to Living Centers In Elementary Classrooms

  1. April says:

    What a great way to incorporate the 5Es of science: Engage, Explore, Explain, Evaluate, and Extend within your living centers.

  2. I recommend red wigglers and a worm composter set up.

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Sara, we actually put worms in the forest floor center each year. In the spring I send “homework” for them to dig for worms. Best part is the kids are part of the process.

  3. Fawn says:

    I still have that old acrylic fish tank sitting in my garage that used to be in active status in my class. Thanks for inspiring me to revisit the idea.

  4. Love your living centers- kids will learn to respect and revere nature as well as immersing themselves in scientific thinking. May I suggest adding hissing cockroaches? Easy as can be, can be handled by the kids, always a hit due to the creepy bug factor.

  5. You have to try a pregnant mouse!
    t’s my fav – get the pet store to let you house a ‘feeder’ mouse that’s pregnant. Last year’s mouse (Delphinium Twinkle) gave birth to 10 babies and the kids were over the moon excited. I’ve done it for 3 years.
    It’s hard to talk about why this mouse is having babies and where all the mice go. We had a student adopt Delphinium and one of her girls (it was actually a boy and D had 10 more babies on Christmas day).

  6. I love this, and the idea of building the living centers- but what do you do the second year when they are already built? And do you come in on the weekends to feed them? I want to be in your classroom- looks like so much fun!

  7. Amy says:

    I’m curious what you do for your weekends and breaks? Do you take all these terrariums/aquariums home? Do the students? I love this idea! There are sites where they will give educational grants and certificates to acquire living things for the centers. I bet the new parents request your class every year!

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