This week, most of the class I’m teaching on my final placement went off on a residential trip. So those left behind joined with what was left of the year 4/5 class and with 33 children between two teachers, we had a chance to try a few fun things out.
I’ve wanted to use the Night Zoo Keeper project out with kids since I first heard Oliver Quinlan discussing it on twitter via his live blog of his time at Start up Weekend, London Edu, which the Night Zoo Keeper project won.
The idea is that the Night Zoo Keeper is party to all kinds of things the animals in his zoo get up to at night. They become mysterious, creative creatures. The Night Zoo Keeper says:
“Hello and welcome to my zoo. This zoo is unlike any other in the world. Here you can awaken your imagination and play under the light of stars. Together, we will answer the question: what do animals dream about? So if you want to play loads of creative games, read about amazing animals and create your very own, become a Night Zookeeper.”
I adapted the one day curriculum plans to fit into three literacy lessons over three consecutive days. The plans were really clear, easy to use and adapt to suit our children (a mixed group of year 4 to 6 children). We decided to make fill our Night Zoo with Australian animals, as this was our theme over the three days for all our work. I signed up, registered our class and got started! I’ve been following Paul from the project on twitter for a while, so it was reassuring to chat to him online and I was delighted when he even emailed me some extra resources and took the time to encourage our ideas about Australian animals. That personal touch really added something special to the project for me as a teacher, and gave me the security of knowing he was only a tweet away if I got stuck.
The children listened to the first three chapters of the story on the site, then started to brain storm their own animals using the scaffold provided by the project. The next day, they split into two groups and worked in rotation to complete a few missions on the website and to paint pictures of their animals. I took photos of them and resized them to cope with the school’s somewhat slow network, ready for uploading on the final day. The children worked in pairs to create accounts within our class area (using the group registration code I had set up) and followed the prompts to add their animal profile and mission. Some went on to write stories about their animals and upload those too from home!
I will definitely do the project again, I am teaching year 4 next year and am sure I can fit it in somewhere. It really got the children’s imaginations going, and they particularly loved the missions, as demonstrated by how well they linked their animals to the missions they created – see Jessie the snake below, who challenged everyone to a hissing competition!