Teach Great Lakes Facts with a Collaborative Research Project

How can you teach Great Lakes facts? Try a short, collaborative research project. First, put kids in groups of five. Second, ask each student to investigate one lake. Third, combine the pages into a booklet. As a culmination, compare, contrast, and do some graphing!

Ms. Sneed Teaches Great Lakes Facts

Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, stood in front of her class. “Today,” she said, “We’ll continue with our Great Lakes activities. You’ll do a quick research project. Each of you will receive a template for recording facts about one lake.”

Using Credible Sources

As she distributed the pages, she continued talking. “I’ve sent three links to you. The first, About the Lakes, comes from the Great Lakes Commission. The second, About Our Great Lakes, was created by GLERL, or the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. And the third, Physical Features of the Great Lakes, was created by the EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency.”

She stopped for a minute and posed a question: “How do we know these sites are credible?”

One student tentatively raised his hand. “Well, all of the sources seem like science or government agencies.”

Ms. Sneed nodded and acknowledged another student, whose hand was also up. “Additionally,” the child said, ” they’re not media sites or blogs. In other words, we’re probably not just getting someone’s opinion.”

“Great,” said Ms. Sneed. “You’re right. These sites offer the facts, and nothing but the facts.”

Great Lakes Facts Research Project

As the teacher finished handing out the pages, her students began to chatter about the assignment.

“Look! I got Lake Superior!”

“And I got Michigan!”

Ms. Sneed smiled. “I like to see your enthusiasm,” she said. “Now let’s get started.” Without further ado, the students opened their Chromebooks and got down to business.

Five research pages let kids research facts about the Great Lakes. Each features a map of the lakes with one highlighted. Kids list major cities, bordering states and/or provinces, shoreline length, retention time, maximum depth, average depth, population, surface area, volume, and special facts.

Are you feeling “pinspired”? Feel free to pin images from this post.

Collaborating

The following day, Ms. Sneed places her students in groups of five. “As you will notice, each of you researched a different lake. At the end of this project, we’ll put them all together in one booklet.”

Comparing Facts About the Great Lakes

The teacher began distributing two more pages. “Today, however, you each create two graphs. First, you’ll graph volumes of the lakes. Second, you’ll graph average depths. As members of your group share their facts, you’ll color the bars.

“I’d like you to take a closer look at the depths graph. Notice how it has sea level, or zero feet, at the top. Furthermore, the numbers go down. When you finish this graph, you’ll have a visual of how deep the water is in each lake.”

The students could tell that Ms. Sneed was just about finished talking. With that in mind, they began rummaging around in their desks for crayons and colored pencils. “I see you’re chomping at the bit to get started,” their teacher said. “Go ahead!”

Two sheets ask kids to create bar graphs of Great Lakes facts. On the first, students compare volumes of the lakes; on the second, average depths.

As Ms. Sneed circulated, she corrected a few misconceptions about bar graphs. “These graphs have bars, not lines,” she explained. “Color the entire space up to the volume. Here, it helps to draw a line across before coloring.”

Labeling the Great Lakes

The next day, Ms. Sneed distributed another page. “Since you are studying for your Great Lakes geography quiz, I’m giving you one more blank page for practice. It goes with the labeled page you already have.”

A map with labels and another that's blank let kids identify locations the Great Lakes, as well as adjacent states, provinces, and cities.

She picked up one more set of papers. “I’ll also give each group one of these cover pages. You can then staple your collaborative booklet together. After that, we’ll hang them over here.” She pointed to an empty bulletin board.

Soon students brought their booklets to her, and she stapled them onto the board. She clapped her hands and called the kids to attention. “Now it’s time to get out our Great Lakes novel, Paddle-to-the-Sea.”

As her students pulled out their books, that small teacher smile spread across her face. Ms. Sneed loved it when all the pieces of instruction fit together.

Enjoy Teaching

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.

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