The first grade classroom is an animated community of young students surrounded by a literacy-rich environment. The curriculum includes high-quality literature and meaningful language experiences in all subject areas. Mutual kindness and respect are interwoven throughout the year’s activities. An integrated curriculum supports student learning and understanding.
First Grade: Penguins and Antarctica
In a month-long integrated study, first graders are invited to take an imaginary journey to Antarctica complete with passports, travel games, a packing list and a letter home. As they navigate through their travels using globes, world maps and an atlas, they study the physical attributes, behaviors and life cycles of six different penguins: rockhoppers, kings, little blues, gentoos, chinstraps and emperors.
The science leads the children in conducting a set of experiments in order to understand why penguins are specially adapted to survive at very low temperatures. In one experiment, students work with water, ice and thermometers to replicate the temperature of the Arctic Ocean. This hands-on measuring experience helps children gain a true comprehension of how cold the polar waters are in comparison to some of the oceans with which they may be more familiar.
The mathematics used by the students in their travels and studies involves measurement, map reading, sorting and graphing. Children measure their own heights and weights for their trip passports. In addition, they gain an understanding of the measurements and weights of the penguins by cutting a string to each penguin’s height and putting rocks of various weights into a shopping bag that has been set on a scale until they replicate the weight of the penguin in question. Periodically, they compare and contrast penguin weights and heights to their own. Midway through this unit, the children have collected enough information to create life-size, three-dimensional replicas of their favorite penguin using butcher paper, paint, construction paper and their own active imaginations.
Children’s literature is a natural tie-in to this unit, with favorite stories being The Emperor Lays an Egg by Brenda Z. Guiberson and Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater. Writing ideas come easily to the children, as they realize they have so much to say. In addition to writing letters home to their parents describing the journey to and harsh environment of Antarctica, the children read and write both non-fiction and fiction stories with penguins as the characters.
After this unit is finished, the first graders are true penguin biologists with a passion for learning and a deeper appreciation for the gifts of the Earth.
A Sample First Grade Daily Schedule