Halstead students learn science through Texas Wildlife exhibit
By ALICIA PELKEY
Special to Leader-Press
The popularity of dinosaurs among children has spawned massive learning experiences for students, especially with fossils, foot prints and bones.
Students at Hettie Halstead Elementary are enjoying an exhibit that some would only see in a museum. Fifth grade science teacher Nicole Green ordered in an exhibit that is available to all teachers from Texas Wildlife Association at no charge. Called Exploring Adaptations, students can explore the major vertebrate groups while identifying various adaptations of select native Texas animals by examining their pelts, skulls, tracks, and more. Halstead set the exhibit up in a room where students get to go and have hands on experiences with skulls, scat (droppings), and casted foot prints of various animals found in Texas. The room is open and available to all grade levels to go and enjoy the exhibits at a convenient time for them.
Green attended the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching hosted by the Science Teachers Association of Texas two years ago and learned about the free resource available to all teachers. Green says the exhibit and manuals build into the Life Science lesson she will begin teaching in a few weeks.
“This exhibit opens the discussion about ecosystems and animals found in the state of Texas and covers the TEK 5.9 and 5.10,” Green said. "This is a great resource to get students excited and engaged about the up and coming science unit."
The exhibit and related materials meet a multitude of requirements for the science scope of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills including adaptations and survival, animal behavior, levels of organisms within an ecosystem, life cycles, physical characteristics of living things, predation, seasons and adaptations, function and survival along with several other sequence alignments.
Students found the hands-on learning beneficial.
"It is cool and all, but I do not like dead animals," fifth grader Emma Butler said.
Several students made noises expressing their disgust when seeing the animal droppings. But, Malachi Perez was not getting too close.
"It is so cool, but I did not touch the poo," he said emphatically, shaking his head.
Students use field guides, books and bird calls as tools to further explore animal adaptations. Halstead kindergarten students enjoyed using clay with the casted imprints of all the different animals. Fifth graders, like Jave-Mar Juan, enjoyed being able to see all the shapes and sizes of animal skulls.
"It is a satisfying way to learn," he said.
The Texas Wildlife Association allows a school to check out two trunks for a two-week period twice a semester. Green said the school has requested a second exhibit for the second fall semester.