The Sea Creatures and Portraits Stories audio ebook is one of the final products of our eight week long project called S.O.S. (Save Ocean Species.) We launched this project with a field trip to the Scripps Birch Aquarium which then led to a whole class in-depth learning about sharks. We also researched about different issues affecting our oceans including endangered species, overfishing, and pollution. Each student then chose an endangered ocean animal to research on their own before writing a narrative non-fiction story about their animal. Students analyzed mentor texts to familiarize themselves with this genre of writing. Their writing pieces evolved through each stage of the writing process where the students first used an organizer for each part of the writing. During the editing/revising stage, students used a checklist to self-revise and then peer revise, before conferring with the teachers. To accompany their stories, the students made a scientifically realistic drawing of their ocean animal using the critique process where they received and gave feedback on their multiple drafts.
This project involved much fieldwork, including a visit to the Cabrillo tide pools where the students used field guides to identify intertidal species and learn about the food chain, a beach clean up, and in-class visits from a marine ecologist, a commercial fisherman, the San Diego Coastkeepers, as well as some watercolor artists. The beach clean up was organized in collaboration with the San Diego Coastkeeper and was a big part of our SOS project. Students gathered data on the types of trash they collected and took photos while on the beach clean-up. They then organized the data into a table and graph, made calculations and projections, and developed conclusions. With the help of Outside the Lens, a photography and digital media literacy organization, students used the beach clean up photos and research to create public service announcement posters about marine debris and distributed them to restaurants and stores in the beach community.
Once the narrative non-fiction pieces and watercolor portraits were completed, the students used a rubric to practice reading their stories with expression before recording their voices onto an audio track at a high school recording studio. All in all, the students took a lot of care and time into creating their final products.
I absolutely loved this project! Children are just naturally drawn to the ocean and all the animals that live there so it was no surprise when the students were thrilled to find that they would be learning more about how to take care of the ocean and the endangered animals that live there. The students were so inspired to learn all that they could know about their ocean animal and the fieldwork was top notch. Where else could the students get some hands on experience with an ecologist at the Cabrillo tidepools, learning about the intertidal and the animals that live there? It was also rewarding to see the students work so hard on creating their PSA posters and then going from store to store in Ocean Beach, distributing their posters to be posted up on the store windows. The students were so proud that they were actually doing something to make a difference!
-Misa Adams, 3rd Grade Teacher
One of the highlights was delivering the posters because I liked talking to people at different stores. It made me feel happy that we were spreading the work to not litter and to stop pollution. It also made me feel sad because it had to end.
My personal favorite was the Ocean Beach clean up because we got to pick up a lot of trash and we found weird items like aluminum cans that dated back to the 1980’s.
I really enjoyed making my animal portrait because it wasn’t easy and it really made me persevere.