After a parent offered her time and expertise to set up a saltwater tank in the classroom, the first graders became very interested in ocean life. Guided by their teacher, they began to learn about currents, habitats, and the water cycle.
Each child chose a research topic of special interest to him or her. At this developmental stage, most research is conducted by having the teacher read out loud from sources or explain various concepts. Children record what they learn by drawing pictures and writing some words to help explain their drawings.
Next the children pooled their research to turn the bottom of their loft into a working scientific submarine. Besides learning how a submarine works, the first graders also created a lab inside the sub complete with experiments such as an investigation into whether plants could grow with artificial light but no sunlight. The children also became fascinated with how sonar works and incorporated it into their sub design. They used mirrors to figure out how a periscope works and build their own.
Another parent helped the children dissect a crayfish and a perch and see the difference in the types of gills on each animal. Live zoo plankton were observed under a microscope. The class built a blue whale out of paper and cardboard. The whale was made to scale (one-tenth of its actual size) and featured handmade baleen teeth. Each child in the class contributed crocheting or finger-knitting that the children sewed together to create a giant handwork octopus. The submarine, blue whale, octopus, and other student-made components then provided hours of imaginative play for the children to further explore ocean life.