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Learning Circles Teachers' Guide
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Project Ideas for Places and Perspectives

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Where in the World Are We
Backyard Dinosaurs
More on Dinosaurs
Local Animals
Historical Perspectives
Regional Legends and Local History
Land Use and Local Politics
Natural Disasters
Transportation and Geography
Travel Guides
Place Profiles
Local Business and Industries
Migration Patterns

Where in the World Are We?

Geographers can pinpoint every location on earth by finding where it lies on an imaginary grid of latitude and longitude lines that encircle the globe. Parallels of latitudes measure the distance north and south of the equator (0 latitude), a line that runs around the middle of the globe through Africa, Indonesia, and South America dividing the world into northern and southern hemispheres. Meridians of longitude measure the distance east and west from the prime Meridian (0 longitude) which runs north to south through central Europe and West Africa.

Every place on the earth has an exact location that we can establish by finding its latitude and longitude. But places also have relative location. They are related to one another by land, water, migration patterns, climatic systems, and transportation and communications technologies. Knowing where we are and the characteristics of our locations is critical for understanding interdependence at local, regional, national and global scales. Students can use maps to study their own location and that of their partners, but here is a project idea that will encourage students to think about their location in the world and its relationship to events, people, and other places.


Students could begin by locating their own place on a map in terms of latitude and longitude and exchange this data on the network. Then they could pick a place in the world that is significant to them for some reason or that is the site of some important current or historical event, discovery, or invention. They would then send out the clues in the form of a riddle. Here are two location riddles.


We are thinking of a place that is located at 32 degrees and 45
minutes N. Latitude. It is a place where a young pilot (who took
off from Carlsbad, California, and flew around the world) stopped
to deliver a large sack of mail with letters from children all over
the world. Can you guess the name of the place and its longitude?

Students from Steve Brink's Class
Oceanside, California.


I am an old city at 51 degrees and 48 minutes N. Latitude with a river flowing through me. On a warm summer day, July 4, 1862 to be exact, Lewis Carroll took Alice Pleasance and her two sisters on a boat ride and told them a funny little story about a little white rabbit in a terrible hurry. Where am I and what is my name?

James Willerd, Elizabeth Britten and Patrick Mennends
Cardiff, England

Local Animals

Animal characteristics and behavior are central in many classic stories written for children. Students befriend animals of different sizes, often related to cultural patterns and geographic locations. Children living in tightly spaced apartments in Tokyo choose insects like grasshoppers and cockroaches for pets, while children on a rural farm in England might enjoy the company of a pet pig, cow, or goat. The spotting of wild animals such as coyotes, deer, bears, or horses generates great excitement as children travel through their environment. This interest can be focused on learning more about the behavior and survival of these animals. Students are likely to have their own ideas for projects, but here are some that have been contributed by Carrie Brower from Village Elementary School, NY.

Wild Animals at Home

Students research animals found in the wild in their area, describing the animal's physical characteristics, habitat, food, birth and growth information, unusual facts or habits, any problems it causes, and future prospects for survival.

Local Animal Report
1. Name and type (mammal, bird, etc. ) of local animal
2. List physical characteristics (adult length and weight, color, feathers, scales, etc.)
3. Describe any identifying characteristics
4. Describe natural habitat (desert, sea, etc.) and eating patterns
5. Birth and growth information
6. How does the animal protect itself?
7. List interesting or unusual facts or habits
8. Describe the ways it helps or troubles humans
9. Future prospects (for example: protected by law, endangered, etc.)
10. Other information

Animals in the News

Students summarize a newspaper or magazine article about an animal found in their state, province, or country.

Local Animal Article
1. Name of newspaper in which animal article was read
2. Date of newspaper
3. Headline of animal article
4. Name of local animal featured in newspaper article
5. Summary of the article
6. I think other people will find this true-life animal story...
a) interesting b) humorous c) amazing
d) other _________________

Animals Tales

Interview friends or relatives with interesting local animal tales to tell. Take the information and write it up for the other members of the Learning Circle. Include the name of the person interviewed and his or her relationship to the student, if any. Also provide the setting and a title for this true-life animal story.

Local Animal Tale Interview
1. Name of animal found in local area (state, province, etc.)
2. Name of person interviewed and relationship to student
3. Setting of story told (season, year, place)
4. Summarize the true-life story told about the local animal
5. A possible title for the animal tale

Backyard Dinosaurs

No one knows for sure what dinosaurs really looked like. Most drawings of dinosaurs are based on museum reconstructions, which in turn were based on the tracks of dinosaurs and fossilized bones found around the world. Were there dinosaurs living in your backyard? It is possible and it is likely that you and your students can find out.

Fossils can be the hardened remains of either plant or animal life. However,
the ones that excite both children and adults the most are the traces of giant
reptiles. These enormous creatures, known as dinosaurs, appeared on Earth about 210 million years ago during the Mesozoic Era. Their size and erect posture made them successful predators, and they remained dominant for about 150 million years.

1. Have any dinosaur fossils been found in YOUR state or region?

2. If so, please tell us what you know about the dinosaurs in your backyards.

3. If not, where is the closest region to your school where dinosaur fossils have been found? Have any fossils of extinct animals been found in your location?

If there is a science museum near your home, phone (before visiting it) to see if a staff member could meet with your class. Ask for detailed information on the fossils in the museum's collection. Determine if any of them were found locally. Record any information obtained from museum exhibits and personnel on plant and animal fossils discovered in your part of the world. If there is no museum in your area to permit a field trip, you can call or write to a museum of science in your state to find information on dinosaurs in your region.

You may discover that NO dinosaur fossils have been found in your state or
province. Ask a member of the museum staff to explain why this is the case.

4. If you visit a museum, describe any dinosaur reconstructions or models at the museum.

Share your information with the other members of your Learning Circle.



Since elementary school children are fascinated with dinosaurs, they are frequently targeted by toy manufacturers, publishers, and the entertainment industry. Have your students discuss how "dinosaur-mania" has affected them or younger brothers or sisters. Compare the responses of Learning Circle partners and siblings on such topics as:

Favorite Dinosaur Movie
Favorite Dinosaur Book
Favorite Dinosaur Toy
Favorite Television Dinosaur


Ask your partner classrooms to find the List the average weights of local dinosaurs.Use the data to create a pictograph drawing to scale of the dinosaurs listed. Students can obtain information on the average length of other dinosaurs from one of the many books available.

List the average weights of dinosaurs from each region
Display this information in the form of a line or bar graph.


Group the dinosaurs listed by your partners according to whether they are carnivores (meat-eating), herbivores (plant-eating) or omnivores (plant and meat eating).


Consider the differences between the dinosaurs found in each site. What reasons can the students can think of to explain the differences? Was the climate the same or different in the regions? Each of the classrooms could try to explain the differences. What is the evidence for the different theories? How can we look for answers? How do scientists look for answers to these riddles?

More Project ideas

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Copyright © 1997, Revised 2002, Margaret Riel. All rights reserved.