CCISD Williams/Ledger Elementary

A video conference with the San Antonio Zoo allowed Williams/Ledger Elementary School students to learn about elephants in their habitats while experts answered all of the students’ questions about the animals as part of the school’s Genius Project program.

COPPERAS COVE — Who says you can’t bring an elephant into the classroom?

Williams/Ledger Elementary School second-grader Allie Park wanted to study elephants and she found a way to do that through Genius Hour, part of the school district’s gifted education program that is open to all students.

Park, a student in Tessa Wiesenberger’s class, was able to connect via video chat with Kathryn Takow, San Antonio Zoo education coordinator for school visits and an elephant keeper at the zoo.

“I enjoy getting to connect with kids and share my passion for animals and inspire kids to secure a teacher for wildlife,” Takow said.

Park chose to conduct research about elephants for her Genius Hour project, and had some questions to ask the professionals.

Park learned that elephants do get sunburned and their sleeping patterns require them to take naps throughout the day. Elephants don’t sleep for a long stretch at night as humans do.

Park was able to see and speak with the zoo experts who also shared pictures of the zoo’s resident elephants with Park and the class.

“It was interesting because you got to learn things you never knew before,” Park said.

Genius Hour has been newly implemented in several classrooms at Williams-Ledger Elementary this school year. It allows students to decide what they would like to learn about, and gives students a sense of pride and ownership for their learning.

Wiesenberger said technology such as video chatting helps link classrooms with professionals while breaking potential barriers such as distance, time, and budget.

It gives students a unique learning experience, and brings information to life for them.

“This kind of project-based learning gives students a stepping stone into the kind of research that will be required of them in upper grades and even in higher education,” Wiesenberger said. “Students are actively engaged in discovering new information about topics they are passionate about. I’m hoping that Genius Hour helps instill a love of learning upon my students that will last a lifetime.”

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