Caring for Classroom "Virtual" Pets
Project URL: http://teachnet-lab.org/ps142/petcare/index.htm
How it works:
It seems like all
children want a pet! Having one can
bring years of fun and provide a real learning experience for
children. Responsibility gives kindergarten and first grade
students an understanding of the commitment and
responsibilities necessary for pet ownership by having a classroom
"virtual" pet--an animal they research on the Internet,
create, and chart the care and feeding of.
The initial part of the unit is a
whole group experience. Students vote for a classroom pet and then
listen to stories to gather facts about the chosen animal.
With the teacher's assistance, the second part of the unit allows
pairs of students to research information on the Internet and answer
their questions about the animal they have chosen. Depending
on their ability, the students then draw or color their selected pets,
cut them out, and make model pet homes. The information gathered from
the Internet dictates how the homes are made and which items their
pets need or might enjoy--for instance, a water bottle, toys to play
with, an exercise wheel, and a container for food. A daily pet-care
chart is developed based on the animals' needs, and allows the
students to keep track of when the pets were cleaned, given water,
fed, exercised, and played with. The students are responsible for
finding some free time each day to address these needs and they use
their charts for three weeks to make certain the tasks are completed.
Students identify and use voting as a way to make decisions, discuss
data using appropriate terms (more than/less than, most/least),
construct a bar graph displaying real-world data, listen to stories, recognize the sequence of events by acting out the
story, use a combination of words and pictures in their writing, and distinguish between reality and
fantasy. They learn to compromise and participate in group
planning and discussion, are introduced to the Internet,
communicate ideas based on gathered information, and use visuals to
present information orally on a topic.
Required materials include a computer with Internet connection, a digital camera,
and chart paper. They also need materials for drawing and/or coloring,
and for making model homes (shoe boxes, toilet paper rolls, Styrofoam
cups, paint, newspaper, scissors, markers, paper fasteners, pipe
cleaners, and felt).
This program is suitable for any early childhood kindergarten or first
grade classroom. The teacher determines the paired partners based
on heterogeneous grouping. A low student/teacher ratio allows for the time
necessary to spend on the Internet while the other children are
involved in making their pet homes with a paraprofessional.
The students enjoy creating their pets and homes, and are conscientious about caring for
eager to share the information obtained from the Internet with their peers during their oral presentations.
They build an awareness of their role as citizens by learning about
responsibilities and rules, and have opportunities to compromise
and identify voting as a fair way to make decisions. Responsibility allows the students to work collaboratively and learn that people in
groups work together, listen to each other, and make plans together. The students'
interest is easily maintained throughout the unit.
sites should be bookmarked ahead of time. Making the model pet homes required several class periods. Small groups worked best while making the homes, and it
required quite a bit of assistance from our classroom paraprofessional.
About the teacher:
Cindy Lewis teaches a self-contained early-childhood (K-1) special
education class at PS 142 in lower Manhattan. Her students have been identified as speech and language impaired, learning disabled,
emotionally disturbed, and multiply handicapped. She recently
completed a year on sabbatical studying computers and the application
of technology in the classroom.