A Tale of a 4th Grade Wiki Project OR Kids and Animals … How Can You Lose!?


Nine years ago 2 of my sixth graders and I testified in front of the Nevada State Assembly Education Committee about how well using technology to enhance their learning had worked. At the time we had 7 Power Macs in our classroom running Netscape 3.0. We had made a web site for Animal Ark which is a local wildlife sanctuary. Per their web page:

ANIMAL ARK is a 38-acre wildlife sanctuary and nature center Northwest of Reno, Nevada. This facility’s rural setting provides an ideal place to house non-releasable wildlife and allows the public a unique opportunity to view these animals in natural habitat exhibits through glass viewing areas.

We had used Filamentality – “ a free web site even back then, to make “treasure hunt pages” about every animal at Animal Ark. We found web pages about every animal that users accessed to answer questions and do activities to learn about the animals. The state legislature did not have internet access at the time so I had captured pages that we projected on the lightest colored wall we could find in the chamber. The students blew the legislators away with what they had done and how well they explained it.

Since then Animal Ark has developed their own site and last year we took down our very well used, but worn out site. Well now thanks to web 2.0 and specifically wikis, we have made a new educational page for Animal Ark. Actually over 20 wiki pages. Each group of fourth graders in my class was responsible for making 3 wiki pages – one for each animal at the wildlife park. The pages can be used to do general research or as part of a “Design An Animal” project (see the wiki for directions and downloadable data gathering sheets). After researching info on animal adaptations students have to design a new animal that will survive in the area where the student lives – thus showing their understanding of animal adaptations and habitats through their design.

We did a trial run today and guess what!? We found out some (a few of over 80 total links) of the web sites students had selected as the best ones did not contain the information that was required to successfully design an animal. So, now that they could see that they went out with a clarified idea of what was needed and quickly found very suitable replacements. I know, I know, –  where in real life do we try things out and adjust what isn’t working right? (can you see my tongue in my cheek?). But this is the first time these students have done this kind of work and they didn’t get it right the first time on a small number of their pages.

FYI – students set up every wiki page except the main page which I set up to get us started. Students found the gold colored buttons with the paw print, made them, downloaded them, uploaded them to the wiki and put them on the home page and made them hot links to their pages. They also put the photos and links on their pages. Someone noted today that we didn’t have links back to the home page so we are doing that tomorrow ( I had missed that … duh). Students were responsible for finding web sites that were as age appropriate as possible that contained the necessary information. They answered questions as they searched to help them do that. My new student that only speaks Spanish has been finding links to pages in Spanish (Google lets you search that way … I didn’t know … way cool!), so our site will even be somewhat bilingual.

So now that they have replaced the links they found weak (weak links – get it? – sorry) we will gather the info they need and begin to design animals to survive in the Great Basin. We plan to make a video of the finished animals. More soon … I hope … last day is next Wednesday!!!!
Learning is messy!

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