Schoolyard Habitat PBL Update

Author: Audrey Lash, Second Grade Teacher.

My last post spoke about how infused our content was with our PBL.

Our driving question: How can we effectively improve our school garden so that plants and animals can thrive?

So, how’s it going? Where are we? Truths… What are the up’s and down’s?

First some pictures…


We’ve planted our own plants. We’re watching them grow and documenting changes.  Are they thriving? Why or why not?


We’ve analyzed and evaluated the failed garden. What worked? What didn’t? We even took a nature walk / scavenger hunt to see what our animals would see and need.

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We’ve done research on our native animals (bats, owls, cardinals, butterflies, frogs, and hummingbirds) and key elements: habitat, life cycle, predators/prey, adaptations, and survival.

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We’ve had guest speakers from our Hamilton County Master Gardeners.



So, now we’re at the pivotal point – information overload. Students have all their information in research journals and plant journals. That’s the scariest part in PBL. What will the students do with all this information? How well will they apply it? We’ve set out to use all of our research, findings, and our plant growth to make our garden better, but also inform our principal on how we’d like to bring these animals back. Students have chosen their native animal to bring back. In similar animal groups, they brought their information together to collaborate and use what other students might have found that they didn’t.

Our students are writing narrative nonfiction stories with mentor texts like April Pulley Sayre. She’s an artist of words and bringing an animal’s views to life. It’s been hard to muddle through perspective with our students. It’s been scary to let go of the information and see how students apply it. We’ve only just begun our stories. Here are a few exemplar beginnings…

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“In a new and improved garden, a red and black cardinal moved into the bush and laid her eggs. She needed to go back into the woods to find…”

“Wings flap. Beaks chirp. All over America cardinals fly…”

The end goal is for them to use this type of narrative nonfiction to inform our principal about what it’d be like to bring this animal back to our garden. They can dream up what the new garden would look like or think about how the animal fares with the old and new garden. They choose how the story for the animal unfolds. After they write their story, they’ll add the common short facts under the story like April Pulley Sayre does. Notice, students have left room for these nonfiction research facts in the bottom right corner. We did try writing the facts first without the story. We found ourselves confused as writers. We took a step back and tried to think about … What would April do? We decided to write the story line first. That’s really helped us visualize how we’ll layout our research. Our principal will choose the most reasonable animal and new garden plan to implement. We’ll buy plants according to the animal and plan chosen. Thankfully, we’ve got first grade collaborators, too. They’re covering our soil and giving us research on how vital it is to plant growth. – Without the right soil, you don’t have plants. Without plants, you don’t have insects and animals.

I’m anxious and excited to let go and see what they want to do with their information. Will they create stories that portray a new garden? Will they be able to visualize what it’d be like for that animal to arrive? (their hardships and survival) Will this new garden be better off with this information? It’s in the students’ hands. And, that’s PBL. 




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