Orleans First Graders Take Charge In Spring Project

by Ryan Bray

ORLEANS – Christian Epps could have picked any animal, but he chose to be a raccoon, at least for a day.

The Orleans Elementary School student was just one of many first graders who spent the last few months researching and preparing a presentation on their favorite animal as part of the school’s annual wax museum project.

The presentations, which were held in the school gymnasium on the morning of April 30, marked the end of first graders’ study of animals and the different ways they survive during the cold winter months.

“The kids picked an animal that they were interested in and wanted to learn more about, and they became experts on their animal,” said Erin Lagasse, a first grade teacher at OES.

Students started their projects in February. In addition to doing research and writing a report on their animal of choice, they also designed their own animal vests and created habitat dioramas during art class. In computer lab, meanwhile, they learned about coding. Students used an app to show their animals moving across different backgrounds on a tablet.

Last week, students eagerly presented their projects to family members, friends and members of the public. At each station was a button, which visitors had to press to initiate the student’s presentation.

For Griffin Ryder, whose son was among those who presented, the most interesting part came in watching the students present.

“Just the fact that you can get first graders to speak to people,” he said. “Not only did they do the work, but they’re able to talk to people and present what they did. Even my son. He was nervous with me, but he came in and did it.”

“Public speaking is new for them,” Lagasse said. “It’s their families, but still they’re highlighting what they know and what they learned.”

From the written report to the art and computer components, Lagasse said the project offered a way for students to learn and be creative across a number of different disciplines.

“There’s lots of cross curricular connections,” she said. “They love animals at this age. They’re passionate about it, so it’s a great way for them to connect everything and put it all together.”

And for all the different facets involved, Lagasse said the students eagerly dove into the project. As a teacher, she said she enjoyed watching students take ownership of their work.

“They had these big visions,” she said. “And what they did with the coding, it was really neat. They designed their backgrounds, it was like they were in the driver’s seat.”

Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com