I have to admit, when I considered using The One and Only Ivan as my first core novel in 5th grade, I was a little worried. I know that most kids love animals and I thought that would be motivating for students to launch into a PBL on some aspect of animals; however, I, myself, am not a huge animal lover. I mean, I have two cats, I had a cat growing up, my dad had dogs and I loved them, but I just was never one of those kids who wanted to be a veterinarian, nor was I a kid who had folders for school with little kittens on them. I am embarrassed to admit this actually because it makes me seem a little hard core, but so be it, “I yam what I yam!” as Popeye says. After I had children of my own, my love for animals also decreased a bit. Not sure why, except to say that my primary love became all about my kids.
But, I decided I could fake it. Did I have to have this huge amount of empathy and compassion for animals to teach this unit? I hoped not. One thing I didn’t expect to happen, was the change that occurred and is occurring within me! The more I learn, the more empathy I have for animals, and animals of all kinds! It seems so silly when I look at it now. Of course the teacher also learns while teaching! I am not, nor have I ever considered myself, “Teacher: All Knowing and #1 Person in Charge!” I am co-learner, chief facilitator, but first and foremost, co-learner. Project based learning has been an incredible vehicle to teach my students, but most surprisingly, it has taught me more than just content. It has taught me about my own heart.