T2 - Helping Cocoa
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6-4-03 WWEB (Channel 3) News:
Barry E. Forest reporting from Asheboro, NC

Zoo officials who eagerly anticipated the arrival of “Cocoa,” a brown bear who came to North Carolina from Yellowstone National Park a few weeks ago, are now concerned that the young bear is not thriving in her new home at the Asheboro Zoo…

You are a new zookeeper at the Asheboro Zoo, and you know the news report is true. Cocoa does not seem to be well. The Animal Management Supervisor has just asked you to be on a team to try to find out what the problem might be and to help Cocoa before she gets worse.

With this scenario, students are placed in the role of zookeepers HTML at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, NC. Their job will be to investigate brown bears and find out what bears need in order to do well and be healthy. They will also learn what can be done to prevent the necessity of relocating bears to areas far from their natural homes.



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As students investigate this problem situation they learn about the basic needs of animals. They also learn how animals interact with their surroundings, and they begin to contrast the geographic features of different places. During this unit students become actively engaged in observation as well as data collection and interpretation.

Working through this unit, students enlarge their understanding of the concepts of evidence, models, and explanation, identified in the National Science Education Standards as unifying concepts of science. Unit content interrelates these concepts in a significant “big idea,” or essential understanding: Reasonable explanations are based on what we know and new evidence we gather from careful observations.

Helping Cocoa is a problem-based learning PPT(PBL) unit, as are all of the T2 units PDF. The skills that are developed through participation in a PBL unit include decision-making and, of course, problem solving. Even young children are able to do high level thinking when they are given an intriguing problem to work on and are carefully guided.

This unit is designed for the primary grades (K-2) and integrates the content areas of science and social studies. Mathematics and language arts skills also are called upon, as are technology skills. Appropriate state (NC) standards PDF have been identified and can be accessed by clicking here or going to the Professional Information Center.

The time frame is variable, to be determined by each teacher. We recommend a minimum of two weeks.


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Multiple means of assessment are suggested over the course of the unit. Visit the Professional Information Center for more information and for examples. Access to some of these items is also available through the Student Investigation Center.

Quizzes. Several of the suggested Web sites have brief quizzes as part of their site. For example:

The Bear Den HTML

Sounds from the Den HTML

In addition, we have developed a PowerPoint quiz PowerPoint that we think you and your students will enjoy.

Problem Logs provide a good way to check the thinking of your students. Each student should keep a log, writing a sentence or two each day (with help, if the children cannot yet write). These entries could be a response to a question the teacher poses or simply a record of what students investigated that day. See an example PDF of a Problem Log in the Professional Information Center. A blank WordProblem Log is available for students in the Student Investigation Center.

Concept Maps are sometimes used by teachers as assessment tools since they can provide evidence of change in conceptual understanding. (Tip: Kidspiration HTML is a great tool for primary level students to use to construct their concept maps.) If you are interested in using concept maps as assessment PDF, click here or see the reference to a brief explanation in the Professional Information Center.

Visual Organizers are more structured than concept maps and also provide a good way to assess students’ understanding. Several of the tasks in the unit ask students to develop visual organizers such as charts and graphic organizers.


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If you are intrigued enough to proceed, go to the Engagement HTMLsection to get started on the first phase of problem-based learning.


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As you proceed through the unit, we invite you to share your experiences HTML with us, and we will share with you what we have heard from others in the Communication Center. Together, we have much to learn!


Copyright © 2004 Elon University.