Westwind ESL Students Go On African Safari

By Angela Howard

Mrs. Reavis at Westwind Elementary uses creative ways to teach her English as a Second Language students vocabulary and other skills. This time she taught by using a live Skyping event to an African Safari.

Students spent the week preparing for the event. First, they learned map skills and establish where the Westwind students are in the world and where Africa is. They learned about the earth, then continents, and then different countries. These students know about many different countries and were able to share some of their own experiences and cultures. Students then spent time learning about the reserves in Africa – two in particular, Maisa Mara Reserve in Kenya and the Kreuger National Park in South Africa. They researched the climate, vegetation, and animals found in those reserves. Students researched animals they might see on the safari such as leopards, cheetahs, elephants, hyenas, impalas, giraffes, hippos, and warthogs. They discovered the difference between herbivores (plant eaters), carnivores (meat eaters), and omnivores (plant and meat eaters). They watched videos of prior safaris by this same company, WildEarth. Students learned the difference between animals in captivity (like in a zoo or as a pet) and animals in the wild. They discovered the meaning of predator and prey.

Mrs. Reavis taught them what Skyping is. She used FaceTime as an example and FaceTimed another teacher to show the students how they would be able to see that person and that that person could also see them. Mrs. Reavis taught them questioning skills so they would be able to prepare a set of questions to give to the Park Rangers and in order to be able to ask questions on the spot during the actual Skype event.

The students came up with great questions such as “How do you become a Safari Park Ranger? What’s the difference between a leopard and a cheetah? Do lions sleep? How much does a hippo weigh? What time is it in Africa? How much does it rain there?” During the actual Skype event, their question, along with their first name, showed up at the bottom of the screen while the Park Rangers answered their questions. The Park Rangers also called them by name and let them know they were about to answer their specific question. The students also were able to ask many questions on the spot during the event.

During the Skype event, the Park Rangers drove their vehicles around the reserves discovering different animals and vegetation and told the students about each one. The Skype went between two different reserve areas in Kenya and South Africa. Students saw real hippos, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, impalas, an elephant, hippos and birds. The students were bothered that one of the cheetahs was crying and was really upset because he could find his brother cheetah.

When asked what they learned during the event, students gave many responses. Some of them include the following:

  • Ticks live in the high grassland and get on animals easily. (They were really bothered that the animals could not get the ticks off of their ears.)
  • Cheetahs hunt but won’t go into the water because they are cats. Cats don’t like water.
  • There aren’t any alligators in South Africa. They are all crocodiles. They way to tell the difference is the crocodiles are bigger and their teeth show when their mouth is closed.
  • Hippos weigh about 3600 pounds.
  • Leopards do not have spots. They have rosettes. Their heads are bigger than cheetahs.
  • Cheetahs have black tear drop marks on their face. They have 2-3,000 spots.
  • If you want to be a Safari Park Ranger, you have to work hard in school. You have to spend a lot of time studying biology.
  • Impalas have black stripes on their behind and on their tail. These stripes are how the babies know which mom to follow.

The students learned vocabulary, map skills, questioning skills, biology, personal skills and more through this amazing experience.