Sunday, April 6, 2014

Our Very Special Friend Seymour Simon Kicks Off Animal Research With The Kindergarteners At Van Meter

The kindergarteners have kicked off their Iowa Animal Research Project.

This is the biggest project that we do with our youngest learners and one that we started last year.  It was very successful and everyone loved participating in it.  In fact, the teachers Christa McClintock, Lynne Caltrider, Brooke Gadberry, and myself even wrote a chapter in the book, Inquiry and the Common Core...Librarians and Teachers Designing Teaching and Learning, highlighting their project.

As we collaborate and plan the project this year, we are turning it into a PBL project by integrating new and important elements.  It is really rewarding to take a successful project and make it even better....I have loved this.

We want this to be an authentic learning experience for our kindergarteners, therefore each of them will develop their own driving questions for the research of their Iowa animal.  
This is new to our kindergartners (and to us) and will be something that we will want to spend time discussing and practicing.  We also want to give them a chance to learn about what research is and what it looks to be curious learners and to wonder about their Iowa animal.    

When planning this, I thought it would be awesome to have someone connect with who is an expert in research, writing nonfiction, and children.....and who better than my dear friend Seymour Simon.
We all know Seymour's wonderful nonfiction books such as the one he is holding up here.  He has written over 250 highly acclaimed science books.  
On his website you can read all "About Seymour Simon" and find out just what an impact he has made on nonfiction, science writing.  
He was also a teacher and can connect with children so very, very well....It is always so sweet to see.  
As Seymour and I prepared for his visit through Skype with our kindergarteners, we spoke about what the kindergarteners have already done in their research.  They all have their Iowa animal picked.  Each student also has written two things they know and two things they want to know about their animal on a big notecard.  Their parents helped them with this part at home.  
They have been introduced to all of the resources in the library and online that they can use as they research their animal.  
The Iowa Animal Research Project Smore is on the kindergarten Symbaloo webmix, so they have been to this a few times already. 

The next step is having them write their driving question....the question that will drive where they go and what they do while researching their Iowa animal.  

By having Seymour share his work, talk to the children about research, and ask them questions about their animals, we would engage them in wanting to know more as their project and ideas developed.  
Seymour started out by telling them all about research and how important it is when writing and creating.  I love how he showed his Cats book, because this is one....
that is very popular in our library collection.

He also talked about the steps in research and the different things one could use to find information important to their topic.  It was so engaging to the children to listen to this.....They all had lots of questions and were more curious than ever.
Seymour asked them to come up to share their animal.  As they shared, he talked to them about things they knew and wanted to know about their animal.  He had a story about each one.  That was exciting for the children.  They felt so proud and important.
Seymour also shared his eBooks in StarWalk Kids Media.  He read from one and told all of us that there were animal books in this platform too.

As he said goodbye for the day, I briefly spoke to them about his conversation and the eBooks he was talking about.  They were all excited to get to the library later to check this out.

And to continue to develop their driving questions.
Later in the day when the kindergarteners came, we went to the eBooks in StarWalk Kids Media.  

They logged into their MackinVIA Backpacks so they could also save the eBooks they wanted to use in their Iowa animal research.  
There are a couple different ways we can get to the eBooks in StarWalk Kids Media within MackinVIA.  We can go into "Groups" where I created the group called "StarWalk Kids Media eBooks" and search through all the different titles.
We can also go into "Databases" and find StarWalk Kids Media.  When we click "Open Now", it takes us to the StarWalk Kids Media homepage.
One can search for titles, authors, and even eBooks through keyword searching.  It is really important for our learners how to use databases like this, so I encourage them to use this feature when doing research.
A few of the little ones asked if they could use an iPad and the StarWalk Kids Media app to listen to animal books.  Of course you can!  I always love when a child differentiates for themselves and their learning style.  It makes it even more meaningful when it happens this way too.  
It is so fun to see that Seymour also posted about our connection on his blog.  I can't wait to share A First Research Project with the kindergarteners next week....They will love to see themselves on the Seymour Simon website.

We are off to the best start thanks to Seymour who helped our children to not be afraid of the questions they have about something.  They are now ready to take what they already know and what they want to know to create a driving question, with us assisting as they need it.

And we cannot wait to connect with Seymour in a few weeks as their research progresses and projects are created.

Thank you Seymour....You made such a difference in their lives.  And in ours.  


  1. Shannon,
    Thanks for sharing this journey in words and in pictures! Kindergartners are so curious; we need to sustain that curiosity throughout their school years!

  2. This looks like such a good (and informative!) time for everyone! What a wonderful slew of ideas, and I just love the way you captured all that they did, along with info about Seymour Simon--perfect choice of authors.