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In teaching, it is very important to be open to teachable moments and unexpected adventures in learning.  Several weeks ago, students were studying large numbers.  An exercise in the Grade 4 Nelson Math workbook asked students to compare the weights of several large animals.  The class discovered that elephants weigh almost twice as much as hippos and baby whales.  As an aside, I said, "So you can see what a challenge it would be to move elephants from Toronto to California."

Unexpectedly, a couple of students who understood the context of my comment blurted out their approval.  I polled the class to see how many students had heard about the impeding move of the Toronto Zoo elephants to a sanctuary in California, and asked those familiar with the story to share it with the rest of the class.  On that day, about half of the class had heard about the move and about eight students strongly approved.  Most of the rest had no opinion.

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After the approximate date of the move was announced, I offered students who were interested an opportunity to make "Bon Voyage" and "Thank You" cards to send to the people in Canada responsible for overseeing the elephant transfer.  About half of the class chose to make cards and I mailed them to the Zoocheck Canada office in Toronto.  Zoocheck staff were quite touched by our gesture and said they would take the cards to California, so they were on display when the elephants arrived. We monitored the elephant transfer, as it unfolded, via Social Media.

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Facebook page for the sanctuary in California.
https://www.facebook.com/pawsweb.org

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Toka, just after emerging from her crate at the sanctuary in California
Photo by Julie Woodyer, Zoocheck Canada

Although some my students will miss seeing elephants at the Toronto Zoo, the pictures and videos of Toka, Iringa and Thika  in their spacious new home in sunny California convinced most students that the move was in the elephants' best interest.

A few days after the successful completion of the elephant transfer, the class reached a milestone; they earned enough "good behaviour points" to have their first party of the year.  Several students suggested a "beach-themed" party, and this idea evolved into a California beach-themed retirement party for the Toronto Zoo elephants.  Several students stayed in during two recesses to create an elephant-sized party decoration.  Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Here are some images of our retirement party for the Toronto Zoo elephants. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

At the end of the party, we bundled our banner into a mailing tube and sent it to Zoocheck Canada, to thank Rob Laidlaw and Julie Woodyer for working incredibly hard to see that the elephants have a better life.

My students have some questions about the elephants, and the logistics of their move to California, so I am hoping to arrange a Skype session between our class and Rob Laidlaw, who accompanied the elephants on their cross-country trek.  We will create a blog post about that, if we are able to make it happen!

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Thank you for visiting our class BLOG. If you have any questions or comments, feel free e-mail me (Margaret Black):  mblack@scdsb.on.ca or to add a comment to this page.

This is a follow-up to our earlier post about collecting natural food items for two local wildlife sanctuaries.  They will be using what we collected to teach overwintering baby animals what to eat, and to keep them well fed throughout the winter.

In this BLOG post, we will be showing the math associated with this project and some pictures of animals at the sanctuaries enjoying food we collected for them.

After we finished our two week "food drive," we began to tally up the food we collected.  We decided that the number of acorns could be estimated by weight, because there wasn't too much variation in the size and weight of acorns.  We used a bathroom scale to weigh our boxes of acorns and a kitchen scale to determine how many acorns weighed 100 grams.  Then, we did the calculations needed to estimate how many acorns we had altogether:

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Weighing one of two big boxes of acorns

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Counting out 100 grams of acorns

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We brainstormed how to estimate the number of acorns as a class.

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Vaughn did a great job adding the extra acorns we collected later.

Our pine cones came in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Most were dry and light weight, but some were green and heavy.  Therefore, we decided to estimate the number of pine cones by volume, instead of weight.  First, we counted out how many assorted pine cones it took to just fill a dish pan.  We did that four times and then calculated the mean (average) number of pine cones in a dish pan.  Next, we figured out how many dish pans worth of pine cones we had.  Last, we multiplied the number of acorns in a dishpan times the number of dishpans of acorns we collected, to figure out approximately how many pine cones we had altogether:

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Our calculations.

Like the acorns, all of the maple keys were of similar in size and weight.  We decided to estimate how many we collected based on weight.

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Here are our totals:

Acorns = approximately 9,800 (35 kgs.)
Pine cones = approximately 2,300 (39 kgs.)
Maple keys = approximately 28,500 (2.25 kgs.)

Based on food consumption data that Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary provided, we estimated that our food would last the 20 squirrels at Woodlands Sanctuary and the 20 squirrels at Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary about 5 weeks, if they only ate pine seeds, acorns and maple seeds. However, the wildlife sanctuaries will be supplementing the squirrels' diets with other foods, so our contribution will likely last about three months, or most of the winter.

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In addition to pine cones, acorns and maple keys, we also collected apples, cedar seeds, corn, black walnuts and sumac for the animals. These were not part of our math project.

This is what all of the food collected by students and staff at Rama Central looked like, when it was assembled in one place!

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This is Jan, the wildlife rehabilitation specialist at Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, with the six boxes of food we dropped off at the sanctuary in Rosseau:

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One of "the locals" thought the acorns were for him!

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Jan sent us pictures of a couple of squirrels that are in rehabilitation at the sanctuary, and Furley the Black Bear (former resident of Springwater Provincial Park's wildlife compound), enjoying some of the food we delivered to the sanctuary:

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Students were quite impressed by this picture of
a very large bear
eating the tiny acorns they collected.

Staff and Students at Steele Street P.S. and Shanty Bay P.S. were inspired by our project. They also contributed items for Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary. We delivered their items with ours.  This is what we took to Woodlands:

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Our Grade 5/6 teacher, Mr. Fitzgerald, contributed the bird houses.

This is Monika, the wildlife rehabilitation specialist at Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary, and my daughter Emily with some of the food we dropped off at the sanctuary in Minden:

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Monika sent us some pictures of animals in rehabilitation enjoying our food drive items.  The fawns are eating windfall apples that some of the students collected:

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This little guy can't believe his luck!

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Monika also e-mailed us a really neat thank you graphic.  We posted a colour copy of it in our classroom:

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We think our food drive for local wildlife sanctuaries was "wildly" successful!  It also showed us how math can be used to answer some real life questions.  We plan to do this again next year!!

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Thank you for visiting our class BLOG. If you have any questions or comments, feel free e-mail me (Margaret Black):  mblack@scdsb.on.ca or to add a comment to this page.