Bringing Ecology To the Classroom through Movement and Gaming

Children working together to solve a problem

Tricia Berry is a high school teacher at Forest Hills High School in Queens, NY. She co-teaches Living Environment, Chemistry, and Algebra. She sometimes finds it difficult to implement inclusion or create an inclusive curriculum for the general education classroom, especially in classes where the students have to prepare to take a Regents exam at the end of the school year.

Generally, she finds students to be less engaged when they have to sit through a lecture for 47 minutes or more. Many of her students are kinesthetic learners: They 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.

In this unit, Tricia created a curriculum that would get them motivated, up and moving, and engaged in a Living Environment class. Given that her students needed to prepare for the Regents, Tricia wanted to focus on giving them access to and a better understanding of Ecology.

School Context

Forest Hills High School is a large community school in Queens with a diverse population. The school’s community consists of mostly minorities including a large population of Latinos, black, and Asian students. The learners in my classroom vary. A little less than half of her students have IEP’s and there is a handful of ELL’s.

Focal Students

Learner 1

Angel is a 15-year-old ninth grader. He is very self-conscious about his work in school. Angel 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 Angel because he was enrolled in Catholic schools for many years.

Angel just received his initial IEP this year after being recommended by his Father. When engaged, Angel works so well, especially on hands-on activities and working in groups with his peers. Although he is the last to participate in the 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. I want him to have better access to Living Environment.

Learner 2

Daniel is a 15-year-old freshman in High School. Daniel has a learning disability. He 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, when engaged, contributes a lot to classroom discussion. 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 Nicolas to be more engaged and focused in class. He needs more practice and access to help him better pass an upcoming state exam.

Learner 3

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. Kevin also has very poor penmanship skills. Kevin is 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 Living Environment Regents exam. Kevin is a visual learner and learns from graphs, charts, videos, and he enjoys hands-on activities.


If this looks like a unit that will be valuable to you, we welcome to download the Curriculum that we'v laid out in a PDF file for you teaching needs.


With this being my final lesson plan of the year, I realized that Angel, Daniel, and Kevin all  changed a great deal. They were all  much more engaged than they have ever been in the class since the first day: They were more focused and less distracted. They not only participated in class but without me having to cold call on them, with no hesitation.

I love the fact that my co-teacher was engaged and an active part as well of this activity. We all made a great team. Using students to help with the stations made it more fun and engaging as well. Giving each student a job or “role” makes them responsible and feel important. These roles didn’t give the students an opportunity to sit down and get comfortable by talking to their peers and acting up.

Angel was focused on the tasks on hand. 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, once they know that the Lesson starts immediately, they know what is expected of them once they get into the classroom.

This lesson plan–even though more simple than my others–was more effective. It gave my focused 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.