Chameleon PBL 3rd Grade (pub 9/8/16) Skip to main content

Chameleon PBL 3rd Grade (pub 9/8/16)


Our Chameleon Story: 

At Central Park, we support kids in exploring their passions.  Educators realize that when we get to know our students, we can utilize their interests as a springboard for the most effective learning.  I want to share an example of how this led to our Chameleon PBL Project, based on the driving question: What do we need to do to get (and care for) a school pet chameleon?

A few weeks ago, Ms. Kamstra challenged the 3rd graders to step up as leaders in our community.  With the class, she brainstormed ways they could be leaders: teach the younger students, start a newspaper or blog, set a safe example for others, or spread school spirit. 

The most enthusiastic students immediately jumped into action requesting a school chameleon because they think we will feel more united as a community with a school pet reflective of our mascot.  Ms. Kamstra channeled their excitement and challenged them to learn more and to keep her posted.  A group of especially enthusiastic boys found a plethora of research online. 

Seeing this small group’s enthusiasm, and the broader class’s enthusiasm for pets in general, I asked the class in morning meeting: “What do we need to do to get (and care for) a school pet chameleon?”  I, too, had heard the rumors that we might be getting a school pet, but nothing had definitevly been decided.  I was sure this was going to be an expensive adventure requiring a lot of creativity.  My class didn’t disappoint!  

The kids questions and ideas were fabulous: 

One child would like to build the enclosure since, “We do Engineering at Central Park,” and because 3rd grade just acquired some wood working tools (thank you to the generosity of many community members). Their ideas are quite creative. 
Another student wants to make sure we have a tree in the habitat “because chameleons like to hang upside down in trees.”
Another student is brainstorming the fairest way for every student to feel connected to our school pet as if it was a class pet.  She wants to know where it will be kept and for how long.  Fairness, as determined by equity of access to staring at a reptile, is an important justice issue for 3rd graders.

When we talked about fundraising to buy the most pet friendly chameleon (researched indicates that it’s a male Panther chameleon) and the best habitat we can provide at school.  The kids brainstormed ways to raise money.  Many offered to donate their own money.  A few children have recruited the (baking and selling) talents of their older siblings to help us raise money.  I challenged them to think of a way everyone could participate, even if just a little bit.  


Many students shared ideas, questions, and next steps.


With a little teacher guidance, we settled on a change/coin drive. This way, many families can contribute just a little bit so we can work together to provide a home for “Newton.”    (As a math-passionate teacher I jumped at the chance for some real-world math.  With the coins, as we track our earnings, we will be able to practice skip counting, place value, estimation, exchanging, rounding, regrouping, addition, subtraction, and multiplication, and in a way that’s meaningful to the students’ lives).  

We will be collecting the coins in the office, which is why you might have seen an envelope that looked like the one below.  We worked hard to get the word out to all of the students at the school.  




To launch the project, the students who started the project gave this speech this morning: 

Student #1: 
Hello Central Park Elementary, 
We are hoping to get a panther chameleon soon, so we will tell you some facts about them: 
Chameleons are lizards.  
They are vertebrates because they have spines. 
We want a panther chameleon because they are the friendliest to hold.  
Panther chameleons have a lot of color on them.  
They can grow to be 15 to 20 inches long. 

Student #2: 
For food, they eat leafy greens like lettuce and insects like crickets. They also eat worms for an occasional treat.  
For shelter, chameleons need large homes with natural light and fresh air and trees to climb. 

Student #3: 
We’d like to help the school raise money to buy a Panther Chameleon, so we are going to put this box in the office to collect coins and change.  We challenge you to bring in envelopes of change.  Put a fact or question about chameleons in the envelope for an extra challenge.  
Please donate change to help us buy Newton the Chameleon.  Please take your envelopes to the office.  

We are excited to move forward in our Chameleon Project.    

For me, growing student passions means harnessing the students’ interests to do work reflective of the real world.  We create learning opportunities that are meaningful to the students’ personal lives and experiences, but ones that also teach the standards and 21st century skills.  Project Based Learning creates project planners, learners, thinkers, and collaborators. 

I am so thankful to be a part of this learning community! 

Angie Cary