Project-based learning takes center stage at Croft Design Center Middle Prep Zoo School Student Showcase

Caption: Juwan Lwangmianga, a seventh grade student at Croft Design Center Middle Prep, speaks to a packed room at the Nashville Zoo about Ethiopian wolves.  

Juwan Lwangmianga is writing a children's book to raise awareness about the Ethiopian Wolf, an animal that is currently on the endangered species list. She thought about writing a newsletter instead, but decided that would be boring for her.

"I like to draw," said Lwangmianga, who wants to be a pediatrician one day. "It feels good to have an opportunity to speak in front of people and be at the zoo," she said. "It's fun to do."

Hundreds of middle schoolers from Croft Design Center Middle Prep like Lwangmianga filled the Nashville Zoo's Safari, Jungle and Gallery rooms as part of the Zoo School Student Showcase held Monday, December 7. The Zoo School Student Showcase reflects how Croft Middle Prep, located on the Nashville Zoo campus, frequently collaborates with zookeepers and animal experts to engage students, parents and the community.

Seventh graders at Croft Design Center Middle Prep tackled the topic of endangered species of Africa as part of project-based learning activities. Students talked about their projects in progress as part of presentations that explored and investigated how animals are in the real world. From GoFundMe fundraising sites, to YouTube videos, children's books, newsletters, and board games, students are creating many kinds of products to show what they are learning. Students will present the final versions of their projects on Earth Day 2016.

Students take the skills they have learned from different subjects a step further with high-order thinking that ties in each of those subjects in order to complete their projects, according to Croft Middle Prep teachers. Project-based learning means that instead of Lwangmianga just using language art skills to write about wolves, her children's book project will require social skills to work with her team on the book, art skills to draw the illustrations, science research to explain the Ethiopian Wolf habitat, and even some math, in determining the number of pages needed for the book itself.

Jaila Foster's ocean biome.

Sixth grader Jaila Foster built an ocean biome filled with sea anemones, coral, sea plants and a fish - items made with household items she found at Walmart.

"It took me a few hours to build," Foster said.

Another hallmark of project-based learning is the teamwork involved, which encourages students to provide moral support for each other when needed, teachers said. An example of this was found at the student showcase, where you could find students eagerly volunteering to help other students hold up posters in place of missing teammates.

DSC_0379 copy-Rich

Croft Middle Prep Science Teacher Richard Friedman said the presentations show how thoughtful students can be.

"They have given me a lot of ideas on what they will do to talk about endangered African animals," Friedman said to parents. "I enjoy working with the students. They're inspiring in many ways."

Trading cards were constructed by the fifth graders showing what they have learned about animals from each continent. For Evelyn Herrera that meant researching how the Adelie Penguin got its name and finding out what it eats.

"I found out everything I could about the penguin's name," Herrera said.

DSC_0373 copy-Herrera


See the program from the student showcase below: