Walkabout: The Biomes of Oceania | A Multi-Age Interdisciplinary Research Project
For Elementary students, our school’s semester-long study of Oceania culminated in the presentation of a “Walkabout.” This exposition of cultural, geographical, and historical information exploring the biomes of Australia, New Zealand, and the various islands and archipelagos of the continent captivated families, classmates, and faculty on January 25th. At the heart of the event was collaborative research and presentation by our Upper and Lower Elementary Students.
Lower Elementary students (grades 1–3) and Upper Elementary students (grades 4–6) have a natural synergy as collaborators. The enthusiasm and excitement for learning new things that the younger students bring is inspiring and motivating for the older students to be around, while the patience, perspective, and practical research knowledge of older students allows younger students to explore in greater depth.
Students chose biomes that interested them and joined a team of 8–10 Elementary classmates. These biome teams represented Temperate Forests, Tropical Forests, Deserts, Mountains, Grasslands, and Wetlands. With leadership facilitated by elder students and a faculty advisor, each team created an “idea web” of concepts for potential exploration with natural science topics such as plants, animals, and geography, and cultural topics including art, sports and games, technology, economics and more. For several weeks, students gathered, selected, and recorded information from a shared collection of books gathered from local libraries, from school resources, and from the internet.
From this bank of resources, teams created tri-fold presentation boards summarizing important ideas about their biome. They also designed and made artifacts such as models of animals, types of houses, mountain and landforms, and types of clothing.
During the school day, the research teams showed their presentations to visiting Primary students; in the evening, with additional experience and confidence under their belts, they offered the program to visiting family members as well.
The study kindled interest in Oceania, and in the process of research in general, but one of the biggest benefits of this collaboration may have been the constructive relationships that formed among the younger and older students. The mentorship of their elders empowered Lower Elementary Students, while the enthusiasm and respect of the younger ones gave Upper Elementary students a sense of purpose as they offered meaningful guidance and encouragement. The Oceania exhibit event truly demonstrated what a vibrant learning community our school is.