If you live in Northeast Kansas, you may have heard about the Topeka Zoo's Penguin Plunge. 6 African penguins are spending the summer in a temporary exhibit (visiting from Omaha) in an effort to educate visitors about penguins, conservation, and all that other good zoo stuff. :) That seemed like a pretty good reason to do a penguin project to me!
We started by learning the American Sign Language signs for "True" and "False" then using our new signs to answer questions about penguins. I read the questions first and saw the students' answers, then we went back through to find out what was really true and false. By signing the words, we added a kinesthetic action and I was able to find out preconceived ideas without shouting! It was so quiet and the students were so excited to answer that I want to (learn and) teach more signs in the future.
Penguins eat fish. (True)
All penguins live where it is very cold. (False)
Penguins live at the North Pole. (False)
Penguins live in Antarctica. (True)
Penguins live in Africa. (True)
Penguins can fly. (False)
Next, I showed a short video clip of African penguins swimming and we looked at some photos to discuss the special features of the African penguins. I mainly pointed out the "rainbow" shape on the chest and where the black and white sections connect. The students also noticed that some have "freckles".
The inspiration for how the penguins would look came from Mary Making's Pop Art Chimps. In her lesson, the students made paintings then drew chimps on top with charcoal. I liked the look but the process wouldn't have worked well with my 1st graders. I printed out reference photos of penguins to put at each table so the students would have choices. I asked them to draw one penguin as big as they could fit it on their paper. Next, they traced all their lines with black crayon then we decided to color in the black areas as well. In the 2nd class period when the tracing and coloring was done, the students used watercolor paint to create shapes and patterns. The black of the penguins showed through in a wax-resist.
*I LOVE the 16 color set of Prang watercolors. The extra 8 are really vibrant and the students like being able to mix more colors.
On Monday I took my mother-in-law and my son to the zoo. The penguins were just sort of hanging out on top of the rocks so they were harder to see than if they had been in the water. We still had fun checking out the other animals. Here is a picture of my MIL and my son by a life size display. (The penguin species on the far right is extinct in case you wondered!)