Nesbit Elementary third grade teacher Angela Hentz shows rocks from the coastal plain region of Georgia to third graders Jimmy Mendoza-Orellana, left, and Mahogoni Parson on Monday. The science lesson featured five classrooms at the school that were converted into a microcosm of the five habitats of Georgia. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
TUCKER — Third-grade teachers at Nesbit Elementary have perfected the buy in for a popular science lesson.
For several years and again on Monday, they introduced the five habitats in Georgia — swamp/marsh, mountains, ocean, coastal plains and piedmont — by converting their classrooms into a microcosm of each habitat. The ocean room, for example, used a volleyball net to replicate a shrimping net, and a can of shortening to introduce whale blubber.
They also felt smooth rocks, scooped sand and tasted salt water.
“I like it cause it’s not boring,” third-grader Edderick Mattox said.
Teachers stayed late on Friday to build the rooms for the one-day exhibit that typically brings weeks of questions, teacher Edgar Rivas said.
“We used paper and our imaginations to replicate the whole thing,” he said.
The students are introduced to concepts like adaptations, environments, pollution and conservation. The lesson begins with videos about each habitat and highlights things like the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, where sandstone coral exists, the white whale, which is the state’s marine mammal and why evergreen trees, not deciduous trees, live in the mountains.
“Everything’s different even though we’re in the same state,” Rivas said. “It’s night and day between the mountains and ocean.”
Since the rooms are transformed, the students experience something like the ocean that they haven’t seen first-hand. Rivas said the lesson is always a highlight, and the students often have a “face of amazement.”
“Since it’s third-graders, they still have whole concept of imagination,” Rivas said. “You see them come in, ‘Oh wow, it’s a whole nother world.’ It’s real-world applications, that’s really what you want since we can’t take them all to the ocean, creating things like this allows them to experience something they may not see. Half of our population has never even seen the ocean.”
While science vocabulary and concepts are introduced, the hands-on element sets it apart.
“It’s really hard when you do it from the books,” Rivas said. “But when you do something like this to introduce it, you get better buy in from the beginning.”