Unexpected Find Creates Class of “Zooarchaeologists”

There is always some excitement at dismissal on a Friday afternoon, but recently 2nd grade teacher Brianna Rodriguez and her 2W students experienced something special. What followed demonstrated the ways Parker’s master teachers adapt to their students and leave rigid standardized teaching methods in the dirt.
As they were walking out to dismissal that Friday afternoon, one student spotted something sticking out of the ground underneath a shed. “I bent down to take a closer look,” Rodriguez said, “and realized that it was a skull! The kids, and I, were really excited because we had just been learning all about the human skeleton that week in honor of Día de los Muertos.”
Given the time, Rodriguez promised the students she would come back for it and share with them first thing Monday morning. And so, armed with gloves and an assortment of materials for digging, she and Assistant Teacher Emily Cox started to work. “We weren’t sure what we would find! After a lot of maneuvering we managed to pull out a full skeleton of a squirrel! We were happy to find the tail fully intact, since for a while we suspected it was a rat and were pleasantly surprised that it was not.” Remembering her students’ excitement, Rodriguez knew this discovery provided a special opportunity to stoke their enthusiasm. She decided to lead her students through a full investigative inquiry.
When the students returned to class Monday, they were thrilled to encounter a fully cleaned skeleton in glass jars. “We spent a lot of time looking at them up close through the jars with magnifying glasses and tried to determine what animal it belonged to,” Rodriguez commented. “After considerable debating, we narrowed it down to the skeleton of a rodent and eventually agreed that it must be a squirrel, based on the size and shape (especially the tail) of the bones.” Currently, these student-scientists are researching and learning all about squirrels, including the types that live in this area, their diets, their behaviors and homes they build. They even left the classroom to create sketches and take notes on their observations of squirrels in the park. As a final step, these “zooarchaeologists” will compile their research and create a display and class book to share.
Rodriguez shared, “Anytime I can find something that piques the interest and excitement of wonder in children, I see it as an opportunity for the deepest learning to happen. Through this unexpected inquiry into squirrels, we are able to make many connections and practice the skills we have been working on as readers, writers and thinkers in a very real and engaging way.”
It is not uncommon for teachers to talk about the enjoyment of unpredictable moments that teaching affords them. And at Parker, we are truly fortunate that our faculty can take these unplanned moments and transform them into advanced teachable learning experiences that will surely resound with these students for years to come.

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.