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Fifth-graders prepare for STEM project with an animal visit

Class plans to design prosthetic limb for injured creature 

Godwin Heights — Naturalist Andrea Woody, from Holland’s Outdoor Discovery Center, stood by a wooden box as she talked to a group of fifth-graders about different types of animals. 

“So you are about to meet the fastest animal on Earth,” Woody said. “So when I say the fastest animal on Earth, what animal do you think of?”

“Cheetah,” several students responded.

Woody acknowledged the cheetah is fast, running at about 75 mph, but informed them a peregrine falcon is even faster, reaching speeds of more than 200 mph when flying.

These facts and other information about animals are the building blocks for an upcoming project that the students will be working on as part of the school’s new STEM curriculum.

Last year, North Godwin, a third- through fifth-grade building, implemented a science, technology, engineering and math curriculum for all of its students. The curriculum has an engineering focus while incorporating many of the skills needed for career readiness, such as critical thinking, collaborating with each other, communicating and being creative. 

Helping the Animals 

This year, fifth-graders will be building an adaptive limb for an animal for one of their STEM projects. The project is based on the book “Beauty and Beak,” by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp, which is a true story about an eagle that was illegally shot and how her caretakers repaired the eagle’s beak using 3D-printed prosthetics. 

“This is part of the research for the students as they get to see the animals up close,” said teacher Meghan Shannon. “They will be doing more research and then using TinkerCad or 3D pens to create a prosthetic for an animal.”

Students learned about the different types of animals — amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals — with Woody and naturalist Lisa McKellips bringing out animals in each category. The naturalists told the students why these animals were living at the Outdoor Discovery Center. For example, McKellips said, the barn owl they brought has only known humans and would not be able to survive on its own.

A Snake, an Owl and a Peregrine Falcon

Woody showed the students a painted turtle, which she noted was Michigan’s state reptile. 

“He is missing a leg,” she told the students. “Maybe you could create something that would replace his missing leg.”

Other animals that came to visit were a bullfrog, a black rat snake, a barn owl, the peregrine falcon and a rabbit. Students also looked at animal wings, a snake skeleton, turtle shells and a stuffed skunk.

Fifth-grader Seth Hunt studiously examines a turtle shell

Drew Hill and Jayviohah Brown said they both liked the snake.

“It looks cool and it feels different,” Jayviohah said, after touching the snake’s scales. 

“I also liked the falcon,” Drew said. “It looks cool and its wings are neat and it goes super fast.”

Read more from Godwin Heights: 
Windproof houses and trash collectors made of trash: students get creative through STEM
Students learn about facial expression through ‘creep’ carrot’ art

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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