Wilson Elementary "SubZero Lego Team"

This group of 5th grade students really wanted to study polar bears because they were interested in them and they are facing a lot of problems currently. The group started out researching polar bears through books in the library, eBooks on their iPads, and websites. They identified a few problems, but being from Wisconsin, didn't have a lot of experts near them to talk to or ideas on how they could provide a solution.

Then the students had the idea of researching polar bears in zoos. The students researched which zoos had polar bears in the area and reached by sending e-mails and calling their education centers directly. They were in luck. The Polar Bear Zookeeper from the Madison Henry Vilas Zoo agreed to FaceTime with the students and answer questions about the two polar bears she takes care of.
Before the video chat, the students researched common problems polar bears had in zoos and found out that they commonly suffer from boredom and depression. Zookeepers battle this by creating enrichment activities but struggle with high cost of materials and little time for keepers to focus on and think of enrichment ideas.

During the video chat with the Henry Vilas Zookeeper, the students learned that her bears can and do suffer from depression at times and they are always trying to think of ways to keep their minds working. One of the students asked the keeper if they do any auditory enrichment and she said no, but that would be really cool.

After hearing this the students immediately shouted "We could create an audio track in GarageBand that has sounds from the arctic!"
And that is just what they did. The students researched natural sounds from the arctic and used GarageBand to record themselves creating sounds like footsteps in snow. They also used the built-in sound effects to create wave, wind, and snow sounds.



After creating one audio track, one of the students said, "that was easy, lets make another one!" And then they had two. One for "summer" arctic sounds and one for "winter" arctic sounds. They then used iMovie to create a quick video that they could post on YouTube for other zookeepers to use freely.

They sent their audio track to the Henry Vilas Zookeeper and she invited them to come and play it for the polar bears live. I drove the students to the zoo and they observed the polar bears reaction to the sounds. (The polar bears loved it)

They wrote down observations and things they could do better and then went back to school and made changes. They then sent a new version to the zoo and the zookeeper is currently using it as an enrichment and has also shared it with a network of other polar bear zookeepers.