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Wildlife takes over Aurora Heights

Published: Friday, May 17, 2013 11:19 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 11:46 a.m. CDT
(Ty Rushing/Newton Daily News)
Aurora Hieghts fourth graders recently took on a project that required them to research and model biomes around the world and the organisms that inhabit them. Animal choices ranged from exotic birds to poisonous lizards.

Aurora Heights Elementary School looked more like the Blank Park Zoo on Wednesday as fourth grade students presented their research on vertebrate groups of animals, such as reptiles, birds, fish, mammals and amphibians.

In addition to researching, the students made replicas of their animals out of common household materials.

Science teachers Michelle Modlin and Sandy Baumgart spearheaded the project. Baumgart estimates that between 120-125 students participated.

“This is the third year doing it here at Aurora Heights,” Baumgart said. “Kids that say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to do one,’ they see the other ones start to come in, and they get on track and get one done.”

There were snakes made out of rope, a Komodo dragon made of carpet, lizards made of Play-Doh and a wolf made of sticks. The students selected their animal of choice after also researching biomes, which include deserts, temperate forest, rain forests, the ocean and the grassland.

“Such a variety of materials,” Baumgart said of the replicas. “We really stress not to go out and buy something for the project — use what you have around the house.”

“They get bigger and better every year,” principal Carol Farver said.

Learning about science can be a daunting task for students, but teachers at Aurora Heights have seemed to have found a way to make the process not only educational, but fun for the students as well.

Mitchell Olsen chose to do his project on the Prairie Falcon, which lives in the desert biome.

“It was an animal that had a big population in the desert, and I found a lot of facts about it,” Olsen said of his choice. “It has two-inch talons, and it has a wingspan of 36 to 42 inches.”

C.J. Snethen also chose a member of the bird family; however, his biome was the rain forest.

“I was working on a Hyacinth Macaw,” Snethen said. “I chose it because I like that bird, and it’s pretty beautiful. It can fly up to 55 kilometers per hour, it’s the largest parrot, it uses its beak as a third foot and it’s beak is strong enough to crack coconuts.”

Jamie Rogers did her research on a bearded dragons and their temperate forest biome.

“Well, my mom had one and I thought in was really interesting,” Rogers said of why she chose bearded dragons. “It has spikes around the beard and they go out when it feels threatened. It can sometimes fly and it gets flat when it’s scared.”

One of the largest projects, in terms of scale, came from Freedom Bishop, who made a white ostrich, which is native to the grasslands biome.

“I had my mom help me (build it), but only for a couple of parts,” Bishop said. “It’s four and a half feet tall. It’s actual life size is six to nine feet tall. The white ostrich are really pretty and really cool. They can run really fast and kill lions in just one kick.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)-792-3121. ext. 426, or trushing@newtondailynews.com

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