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Bringing Ecology To the Classroom through Movement and Gaming

INTRODUCTION

 
Tricia Berry is a high school Teacher in Queens, NY. She co-teaches Living Environment, Chemistry and Algebra I. Sometimes, she finds it difficult to implement inclusion or create an inclusive curriculum that the general education teacher is willing to use, especially in classes where the students have to prepare to take a Regents exam at the end of the school year. Students seem to be less engaged when they have to sit through a lecture for 47 minutes or more. So, Tricia created a curriculum that would get students motivated, moving, and engaged in a Living Environment class. Given the fact that students need to prepare for the Regents and ecology is a huge component of the exam, she focused on giving students more access to and a better understanding of ecology. 
 

SCHOOL CONTEXT

 
This school community consists of a large population of Latinos, Black and Asian students. We have a very low population of Caucasian students. The learners in the classroom vary: A little less than half of the students have IEP’s and there is a handful, of ELLs (English Language Learners). Many of the students are kinesthetic learners and enjoy being engaged in class, doing hands-on activities, watching videos and playing games. They love being out of their seat and moving around during the lesson.
 

FOCAL STUDENTS

Angel

Angel is a 15-year-old ninth grader. He is very self-conscious about his work in school and has a learning disability which makes it difficult for him to stay focused in class. He is easily distracted and needs constant prompts. Angel is of Dominican ancestry and was born and raised in the United States. Public school is a new environment for him because he was in Catholic School for many years. 
 
Angel just received his initial IEP this year, after being recommended for evaluation by his father. When engaged, Angel works well with hands-on activities and working in groups with his peers. Although he is the last to participate in discussion when called upon, he will try his best to answer questions.
 
For quite some time Angel was a no-show in class. He made it clear that he was bored by the class and would rather be playing handball in the park than attending class. My goal was to get Angel more engaged during the lessons and motivate him to come to class more often. 
 

Daniel 

Daniel is a 15-year-old freshman in High School. Daniel was diagnosed with ADHD. Daniel also behavioral issues when he's angry; he tends to lash out at teachers and use inappropriate language at times. When angry and upset, Daniel will put his head down on the desk and ignore everyone until he's ready to talk.
 
Daniel is of Puerto Rican and Asian ethnicity. He is a very intelligent young man and contributes a lot to classroom discussion when engaged. Daniel loves talking to the teacher about his life at home and questioning the teacher about their likes and dislikes.
 
Daniel is in class every day unless he's sick or out of school for the day. At times, Daniel can be a distraction to the class and his peers with unnecessary outbursts. However, when prompted to get focused and back on task, he often does so without any hesitation. I want Daniel to be more engaged and focused in class. He needs more practice and access to help him better pass the Regents exams.
 

Kevin

Kevin is a 14-year-old ninth grader. Kevin has a learning disability and, according to his mother, he was diagnosed with a slight case of Asperger's. Kevin lives at home with his mom and two brothers who also suffer from different learning disabilities. He has difficulty staying focused and taking his time and thinking before he answers out loud.
 
Aaron also needs work on his written script but is, overall, very intelligent, enthusiastic and eager to learn. He is always a great participant in class discussions and loves sharing his thoughts and ideas with the rest of the class.
 
Kevin also needs help with his writing skills to help him score better on the essay portion of the Regents exam. He is a visual learner and learns from graphs, charts, videos and enjoys hands-on activities.
 

CURRICULUM

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REFLECTION

 
After teaching this final lesson plan of the curriculum, I realized that Daniel, Kevin, and Angel all changed a great deal. They were more engaged since the first day of class; they were more focused and less distracted. Without hesitation, they participated in class without me having to cold call on them.
 
I love the fact that my co-Teacher was engaged and an active part of this activity. We made a great team. 
 
Using students to help with the stations made it more fun and engaging. Giving each student a job or “role” makes them responsible and feel important. This didn’t give the students that opportunity to sit down and get comfortable by talking to their peers and acting up. Angel wasn’t playing around and disturbing others as usual. Kevin was organized and didn’t get the opportunity to yell out answers and worked as a great team member with his group. Every minute counts and they knew what is expected of them once they get into their station work.
 
This lesson plan was effective, giving learners the opportunity to not only work with their hands but also to move around during the class. Working with their peers helped them with their social skills. While working in a group setting, they were able to collaborate with one another and learn from each other at the same time.
 
Designing this type of curriculum has impacted my teaching and learning in so many positive ways. I want to have my learners in mind when I prepare my lesson plans and I don’t want them to be an afterthought.  My whole purpose of teaching is to help those who need it and help them to reach their academic goals.