Reaching out to experts engages and inspires GT research students

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Students are learning almost as fast as cheetahs are running thanks to helpful organizations such as the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and its representative, Caitlyn Beck, who came all the way from Washington D.C. to hand-deliver a treasure trove of sources of data to eager second-grade Gifted and Talented (GT) researchers at Anne Frank Elementary School.

Beck, a Constituent Relationship Manager of the CCF, planned ahead for a trip to Dallas where she is working with the Dallas Zoo to bring along many heavy items such as books and magazines for a team of students who are studying cheetahs. The Annual Anne Frank Elementary Research Fair will be held on March 3, so the visit was a timely treat.

As part of the project-based research GT unit, students authored and sent formal business letters to primary sources all over the world requesting data for their varied research projects in early December, two of which landed on the desk of Ms. Beck and the CCF. In reply she sent information pamphlets and data sheets for the students which were then shared with their group of 5 who had decided to work together to study cheetahs.

According to Ms. Beck, who had never before spoken in front of a group of children to share her knowledge, it was sheer joy to finally leave the desk and the email response routine and answer the students’ inquiries live.

“I was really impressed with how excited they were to learn and how engaged they were, but, moreover, how they were interested in the bigger picture of how we work and what we do, conservation,” Beck said.

Students learned fascinating facts such as that cheetahs are the fastest land animal that run an average 70 miles per hour and they do not roar like lions, but rather, chirp. However, engaging in dialogue with experts transcends acquiring facts. It also inspires students to ask higher order thinking questions such as what will happen if farmers do not use dogs to watch their goat fields in Namibia?  Do you conserve anything in your own community? Why is conservation important? What is in store for cheetahs in the future?

“After she sent me all of that stuff in the mail, I was so surprised to meet her!” said Zulema Hernandez, 2nd grade GT student, “I loved how she has traveled all over the world. I want to travel all over when I grow up, too.” 7-year-old Christina Bol excitedly said, “I learned it is important to teach the world to not kill cheetahs because there will be no more cheetahs if there are not programs to protect and conserve them.” One thing all of the students agreed on was, “Cheetahs are awesome!”

Story submitted by Jeni Baldwin, K-5 Gifted and Talented Teacher at Anne Frank Elementary School

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