Friday, January 31, 2014

Second Grade Students Showcase Their Leatherback Sea Turtle Projects

Leatherback Sea Turtle conservation is an around-the-clock effort for the Leatherback Trust (LTL) located in Playa Grande, Costa Rica – where our sixth graders travel annually to learn about and participate in the research and conservation of this endangered animal.

Over 3,000 miles away, BCS second graders engaged in their own endeavor to help save the leatherbacks, beginning with a teacher-run field trip to Half Moon Bay in October to learn about the lifecycle of the leatherback sea turtles. 

Among the many activities that day was a relay race where students recreated the lifecycle stages of a leatherback sea turtle by first dragging their bodies across the beach with their front fins, then digging a hole in the sand, maneuvering to get the eggs into the hole from their backpack, and finally covering up the hole (all with fins on their hands the entire time!). 

This highly engaging field trip helped provide students with ample background knowledge before they started their Leather Back Sea Turtle Project Based Learning (PBL) and Design Thinking unit in which students worked in groups of three to explore the driving question “How can we, as citizens of the environment, design a way to protect the leatherback sea turtle?”

In order to best answer that question, students had to do research with books, articles, and videos where students learned how to take notes and highlight important information in a variety of expository texts.   For each stage of the life cycle, second graders worked together to identify specific threats that are currently dangerous for leatherback sea turtles:

Egg Stage: Extreme heat
Egg Stage: Egg poachers
Hatchling Stage: Predators
Juvenile Stage: Fishing nets
Coastal Feeding Stage: Plastic bags/trash in the ocean
Breeding/Migrating Stage: Oil spills
Nesting Stage: Habitat destruction

After identifying the threats, students began working with Mrs. Reed in the MakerSpace to begin the Design Thinking process.  The first step is to build empathy – which second grade teacher Ms. Greenstadt said came very quickly to her students.

“Seeing a lot of pictures and videos of leatherback sea turtles helped the students build empathy quickly, and they loved the idea of having the power to make a positive change in the world,” said Ms. Greenstadt.  “They realized that anyone could come up with a great idea that might help the turtles – even a second grader!”

Building on their empathy and knowledge of leatherbacks, students came up with solutions against specific threats facing the turtles, and were able to use materials like straws, cardboard, plastic, and paper to create a rapid prototype of their solution.

An early idea from a group included having a “hot sauce firing machine” to fire hot sauce into eyes of poachers.  Students rationalized that the hot sauce wouldn’t harm the poachers in a serious way, but it would be enough to prevent them from getting the eggs.
Another group designed a protective bubble for sea turtles to travel in that would protect them from getting caught in nets.  After receiving helpful feedback from the classmates, they changed their prototype from a plastic bubble to a comfortable towel raft, noting that the sea turtles may not like being in a bubble for very long.  The raft also included rubber spikes on the sides to further protect the turtles, but also not harming any other species in the process.  All students went on to design a 3-D sketch-up simulation to virtually test their prototypes. 

Students recently shared their PowerPoint and podcast presentations documenting all of the details of their projects with parents and visitors.  Below are a few examples of the tremendous work done by our second graders who are leading the way in global citizenship and innovation at BCS!