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Gorillas, flamingos and komodo dragons, oh my!

Students research and write about their favorite animals

Byron Center — “Did you know baby sloths are called sloth pups?” first-grader Molly Avila enthusiastically shared.

She learned this and more about her favorite animal, the three-toed sloth, while researching to write a nonfiction book.

“They’re really slow and like to relax like I do,” Molly said. “I love doing research and learning new things about nature.” 

Soft music and low lighting aided Taryn Eilers’ first-graders at Marshall Elementary in learning how to conduct research and become nonfiction authors.

Through the combined science and writing project, Eliers’ students learned how to read and take notes about different animals from books in the library or a digital reading platform called Epic

“I have a really excited group of students this year,” Eilers said. “They got really creative with choosing animals beyond just dogs and cats for their books.”

Gorillas, flamingos, giraffes, dolphins and komodo dragons were only some of the diverse animals students chose to write about. 

They noted their research on different characteristics and traits on their animal research reports and then transferred the information into their final books, using their best handwriting. 

First-grader Lucy Cushing, left, reviews her research about cheetahs, while Molly Avila writes about three-toed sloths, like the ones she said she saw in Costa Rica

Eilers said allowing her students to choose their own animal to research allows them to take ownership of the project. 

“I love seeing their passions and it’s been so fun having them tell me things they learned about their animals,” she said. “At the end of this project, they read their books in small groups and then (the books) go to the classroom library to check out, like at the big library.”

Some students visited libraries outside of school and came to class with sticky notes filled with animal research. First-grader London Henson said she learned a lot about what elephants eat and their predators. 

She added: “I read a lot of books about elephants and watched a video where an elephant fought its predator, the rhino, and the elephant won.”

Read more from Byron Center: 
Sub’s video book teasers get high marks from viewers
‘We take care of one another’

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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