Kindergartener Archer Park shows off his knowledge of sawfish during an Under the Sea presentation Wednesday night at Eastside Connections. Daily Star photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

Archived Story

Eastside project swims under the sea

Published 2:09pm Thursday, March 29, 2012

Archer Park might be young, but the Eastside Connections kindergartener already knows a lot about fish.

Especially sawfish.

“Why do sawfish have so many teeth?” Park asked in front of a group of parents. “Sawfish have so many teeth to catch fish and detect prey,” he answered.

Park was an expert on sawfish Wednesday night during an “Under the Sea” program at Eastside Connections School in Niles.

He and the other 22 students in Bonnie Prenkert’s kindergarten class were all experts on something fishy.

Each student selected a sea-related topic, which they were required to research and give a presentation on for the “Under the Sea” program. They had eight weeks to complete the project.

Here’s how it worked Wednesday: Each student stood in front of a tri-fold presentation board and waited for people to walk by. When they did, the student would recite three facts about their topic, ask and answer three questions about their topic and finally ask the audience if they had any questions.

Naomi Gilliam’s topic was redfish.

“Red snapper is found on the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern Atlantic Coast of the United States,” Gilliam said.

“They live in waters that are 30 to 200 feet deep.”

And what do red fish eat?

“Small crabs, shrimp and marine worms,” Gilliam said.

Prenkert got the idea for the project after reading “Swimmy” by Leo Lionni to her class.

A student asked Prenkert if they could make an ocean in the classroom.

“I said, ‘well, can we?’” Prenkert said.

Under the Sea was the first real project-based learning program she has used this year. She said she integrated the curriculum for social studies, math, writing and reading into the project. For example, students created an eel half the size of the classroom. Students took measurements of the room and decided how much paper they needed to create the eel.

Prenkert’s students also received guidance from Niles New Tech Entrepreneurial Academy students. The “New Tech coaches” visited Eastside a few times to help the students with the speaking portion of the project.

New Tech coaches stood next to their kindergarten partners during Wednesday’s presentations.

“They are like their biggest cheerleader,” Prenkert said.

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