Third Graders’ Excellent Adventure to the Ice Age

By Lower and Intermediate School Library and Information Services Specialist Mary Catherine Coleman
Collaboration with 3rd Grade Teachers
The ILIS Department worked with the 3rd grade on a recent three-week teaching cycle. We connected with the 3rd grade classroom teachers to discover topics they were working on to create a collaborative project for students during their ILIS rotation. The 3rd graders were learning about the Ice Age—what the area of Chicago and Illinois was like hundreds of thousands of years ago and how the land we live on, Lake Michigan and our space was formed. What if students learned about the environment and had to design a time machine that could travel around the Ice Age to document Chicago of the past? And what if they had to create the Ice Age world as well? Third Graders’ Excellent Adventure to the Ice Age!
Research and Understanding: The Ice Age
Students were engaging in research and discussion about the Ice Age in their classroom work. During their ILIS time, students continued to research the Ice Age using the Kovler Family Library’s online resources. We created a Google slide deck with videos and links to National Geographic, Encyclopedia Britannica and BrainPop. The slides had sections that students could edit to add their notes. We prompted 3rd graders to think about what the environment was like in the Ice Age, what animals lived during that time and what they learned about the formation of Lake Michigan. Students read and listened to the articles, watched the videos and collected their notes and information. They asked more questions about different types of animals that lived during the Ice Age, and we engaged in whole-class research to learn more about Ice Age animals and their distant cousins that still live today.
The Building Challenge: A Time Machine!
The building challenge for 3rd graders: based on what they learned about the environment of the Ice Age and the animals that lived at the time, they had to design and build a time machine that could travel back to the Ice Age, journey around the world and collect pictures and videos of the time period. Students started sketching their designs, thinking about the land of the Ice Age. They took into account the glaciers, snow and ice and changing format of the land as glaciers retreated and the Great Lakes were formed, as well as the animals they might encounter and the extreme cold of the time period.
Next, we introduced ways to make their time machine with the 3D design program Tinkercad. Third graders reviewed their design plans and thought about how to take the shapes and tools in Tinkercad and create their time machines. Students were quite creative with their designs and ideas: they built their machines with space for the time travelers to collect samples and store supplies and clear roofs to observe the world around them. Their designs included unique ways to travel during the Ice Age, including flying, using giant tires to travel over ice and creating machines that could move on land and water. 
Challenge Part 2: An Excellent Ice Age Adventure!
Now that students had their time machines, they needed to travel to the Ice Age. Next, they recreated the Ice Age using the virtual and augmented reality website and app CoSpaces Edu, which is a great tool to introduce students to AR/VR applications and creation. Students can choose a 3D world, add objects and items from the CoSpaces library as well as upload 3D designs, images and videos. Another feature allows users to code items from the CoSpaces library to move, animate and talk. Students can use block code to add all these features to their worlds. Third graders learned how to create in a new format with the AR/VR tools and continued to build on their coding skills using the block coding in the CoSpaces platform.
We gave 3rd graders guidelines on what their worlds could include, and they had to make sure it was as accurate as possible. Students referred to their Ice Age research to think about what animals might be in their world, the presence of water and plants that might be similar to those that existed during the Ice Age. As students were adding 3D objects to their world, we talked about potentially similar animals, including the woolly rhino, a distant cousin of the deer and the Giant Ground Sloth. Once they had finished their worlds, students explored the Ice Ages of their classmates and the rest of the 3rd grade. It was wonderful to see them offer compliments and ask their fellow classmates how they coded their items or designed their time machines.
Students did a great job navigating research resources and recognizing when they needed new information and returned to do more research to complete their projects. They also learned a new design tool in Tinkercad. The 3D design process can be frustrating, and students managed their struggles and found a way to complete their projects. Students were also creative and embraced the challenge of learning how to design and build their own worlds in virtual reality. Third graders also continued to build their coding skills, taking the block coding they had learned in earlier years, and developed new coding techniques and blocks in the CoSpaces platform.
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.