‘Armadillos Jump’

RTPI President Teaches About Rainforests

Persell Middle School fifth grade teacher, Annika Putney, leads a “snowball” writing exercise with her social studies class about their visit with Roger Tory Peterson Institute President Twan Leenders. Students were given a picture prompt to start writing about, crumbled up the paper and threw it. Everyone grabbed a new “snowball” and continued the writing exercise their classmate started.

Persell Middle School fifth graders in Annika Putney’s class learned more about their rainforest study through a visit from Roger Tory Peterson Institute President Twan Leenders whose son, Jason, is in Putney’s class. Leenders came in to share knowledge about the rainforest with the class to give them some background information before they began studying it. In March, Leenders takes college students to Costa Rica’s rainforest and will talk live from the rainforest to Persell students to show what they are learning firsthand. On his first visit, he spoke about the different animals he sees in the rainforest, showed photos and talked about his students’ research in the rainforest.

“It is so important to have community members come into the classroom, especially an expert like Mr. Leenders,” said Putney. “The students read a lot about scientists during their rainforest English Language Arts unit but for them to see a real scientist who lives in this area, and he’s Jason’s dad, helps them not only make connections but see that they can also do that job too.”

The English Language Arts unit includes an understanding of why rainforests are important to the world and what are some of the threats to the rainforests. Students read different types of text (informational, non-fiction and fiction) and use their ELA skills to analyze, write and determine the main idea of the texts. The main question asked during the unit is: Why do scientists study the rainforest? Therefore, Leenders’ visits really help the kids make a real-life connection.

“Mr. Leenders told us about the poison dart frog and how they were studying what disease was causing them to go extinct,” said Persell Middle School student Kendall Hughes. “It was great to hear from Mr. Leenders because we had more chances to learn and see what a real scientist does.”

He also told the kids stories about his time in the rainforest.

“Most kids will never get to experience what the rainforest is like and he was able to tell us as a real scientist,” said Persell Middle School student Emily Maggio. “I also loved the story he told about the armadillo who jumped out at him. I didn’t know that armadillos jumped and they also like to roll around a lot.”


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