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Showcasing Ginny Passetto and "Design Your Own Geosaur"


Blending geography, geometry, and science, Ginny Passetto, a fourth grade teacher at Stockbridge [Massachusetts] Plain School, capitalized on her students' fascination with dinosaurs and created the activity "Design Your Own Geosaur."

"I wanted to reinforce the concepts of geometric shapes in a fun, creative way," said Passetto. "For those students who are often intimidated by math, this project offered a more friendly challenge for them."

Passetto introduced the project as a culminating activity at the end of her geometry unit. Students chose four to five basic geometric shapes -- triangles, squares, rectangles, pentagons, octagons, spheres, rhombuses, etc. -- and used them to design an original geosaur creation that filled a standard sheet of paper. They also were permitted to include different types of angles, such as right, obtuse, and acute angles, and parallel and intersecting lines.

"I told the students that this assignment was going to be a major part of their math grade for the unit and encouraged them to take their time, use rulers, and plan out their designs," recalled Passetto. "When designing and drawing the geosaurs, students had to be able to identify all the shapes that made up their creations. They also had to think about where the geosaur lived -- its habitat, diet, appearance, and behaviors. They had to draw in a background that illustrated the environment. Many chose to make the background in geometric design, too."

The geosaurs were colored with crayons, and each student wrote a brief descriptive essay that contained information about the dinosaur and its habits, along with its unique name. Passetto paired students who were challenged by writing assignments with those who could offer extra help, and made story webs with the whole class as a warm-up for the composition.

"The students were very excited to start this project, and they all loved the drawing portion of it," Passetto reported. "When all students were finished, we shared the geosaurs in a special class presentation. I hung all the illustrations and reports in the classroom. The students were very proud of their creations."

The students' commitment to the project impressed Passetto. She began the activity during one afternoon and assigned a rough draft of the geosaur and its environment as homework. The following day, she discovered that every student in the class had completed the assignment. The students were supportive of one another's work and seemed surprised that math could be studied in such a fun way.

"We shared our finished projects with our kindergarten class of yearlong learning buddies," Passetto told Education World. "Watching the reactions from the younger children added positive reinforcement for the fourth graders."

Passetto said that "Design Your Own Geosaur" is a project she definitely will repeat, and she plans to feature it on her Web site, Mrs. Passetto's 5th Grade Spotlight.

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2004 Education World

09/27/2004