Advanced Biology Students Teach Fifth Graders the Science Behind Trees

Rhea A. ’21
The Spence Voice, Issue XXXV Number III

On November first, fifth grade students convened with seniors to investigate the different elements of trees. Each year, Advanced Biology students take a field practical in Central Park where students identify fifteen species of trees. Last spring, Dr. Kraft and Ms. Romary collaborated to organize a class where the seniors led a field study for fifth graders who were learning about botany. To foster an educational and collaborative experience for both grades, the teachers planned a tree walk where the seniors shared their knowledge of trees with the fifth graders. 

Advanced Biology students used their field identification techniques to study and memorize tree identification. To prepare for the excursion, Dr. Kraft encouraged his students to consider how they would translate information about tree biology to fifth graders in a stimulating manner. 

“It surpassed my expectations, I think that the fifth graders learned more from my seniors than I had expected. I knew that it would be fun and a great way to build connections between the grades, but I think that both sides got something meaningful out of it,” said Dr. Kraft. 

Advanced biology students also valued their experience. “Applying what we learned in advanced biology and crystallizing it for the fifth graders was really exciting. They met our excitement with a unique curiosity which made our jobs even more fulfilling,” said Mabel L. ’19. 

The Science Department plans on adopting more inter-grade opportunities in the spring. Students who will take Vertebrate Zoology will work with the fifth grade and the kindergarten class, teaching them ornithology. When the fifth graders learn to identify birds, the seniors will learn evolutionary history and flight. The seniors plan to teach the basics of flight and feathers, which will motivate questions for the fifth graders’ field studies. 

Dr. Kraft sees the potential for more inter-grade multidisciplinary learning. “I think the 412 ecology space offers a great moment for this, which will be interdisciplinary and perspective. I believe it can bring together all the departments, and different grade levels to think about ecology, sustainability, and city life and equity,” said Dr. Kraft.