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Got fish? American Academy kids do!

AA first grader, Aurora Brady, holding a squid found in a dog shark’s stomach during dissection.

Article by Kathy Dunker with photo by Kristi Doke

During their Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) unit in November, American Academy (AA) first grade students had the opportunity to think like marine biologists. They used their knowledge of marine creatures to investigate adaptations and life cycles of under-water animals.

One of the goals for STEM instruction at AA is to provide all students with real world career exposures by immersing them in a variety of science disciplines throughout their school year. During STEM sessions, authentic learning is provided by regular classroom lessons which can include field trips and guest speakers who are experts in the area being explored.

First graders were introduced to the life cycles, defense mechanisms, energy cycles, adaptations, and environments of the perch, dog shark, squid, and starfish. Peer mentoring took place as seventh grade students assisted first graders during the dissection processes.

The students also got the help of some eighth grade mentors who participated in the ancient Japanese folk art of fish painting called Gyotaku. Gyotaku, which translates literally as “fish rubbing,” was invented in the early 1800’s by Japanese fishermen who used the process to record their catch. The fishermen originally printed onto newspaper, but the first graders printed their fish onto fabric.

As a culminating activity, the kids got to spend an exciting day among live marine animals with a field trip to the Denver Aquarium.

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