Cross Content Collaboration in Fifth Grade

By Lisa Weinstein, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

If you ask a fifth grader about ecosystems and biomes and their importance, they might say, “You mean what we read about in class? Did you know that wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park?” Or they might respond, “You mean what Mr. I is teaching us about in science? Like how animals and plants interact in different ways?”  An especially astute student might answer,“You mean the ways different biomes are depicted in fiction and how they affect a character? Mrs. Silberman helped us explore that as we read “Sarah, Plain and Tall” in library class” Students might even respond, “Let me show you the powerpoint I’m making about an ecosystem in Computers with Morah Sarit.”

Across content areas, in reading, science, computers and library, our fifth graders are studying ecosystems and biomes. Their study began within their reading block, when students read the nonfiction book,  Bringing Back the Wolves – How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem by Jude Isabella. This book describes the 1995 attempt to fix errors of the past and reintroduce gray wolves into Yellowstone National Park and how over time, animal populations stabilized, waterways were restored and a healthy ecosystem was recreated across the land. Students read this text, as readers, to learn about this topic, and as writers, studying the ways the author organized and structured the information.

A few weeks into this unit, Mr. Imburgia launched a unit on ecosystems, an important unit in the fifth grade science curriculum. Students are learning about the different roles organisms play in the environment. An important goal of the unit is for students to understand that energy is transferred in ecosystems, and it all starts from the sun. Although each ecosystem (students are focusing on desert, tropical rainforest, tundra, deciduous forest, oceans, freshwater, and grasslands) includes different living things, concepts like how food chains work, and the roles of producers, consumers, and decomposers, are present in all of them. According to Mr. I, “This is where the students’ background knowledge from reading ‘Bringing Back the Wolves’ comes in handy, because the story shows what a delicate balance food chains can be.”  Mr. I is very passionate about this project because it gets students digging deep into one of the ecosystems.

In addition to deepening their science knowledge, students are also continuing to write informational texts, this time learning to incorporate nonfiction research, how to cite a source using MLA format and how to use Google Slides to create a slideshow. 

We are incredibly proud of this cross collaboration between our classroom teachers, Mrs. Sutton, Mrs. Spilkevitz, and Ms. Perlman, Mr. I, Morah Sarit, and Mrs. Silberman and look forward to sharing the final product with you in a future Kochav Hatzafon.