Snow in April couldn’t stop 60 CPS students and 30 WITS volunteers from visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo during a recent WITS on the Weekend field trip. Well-bundled and chatting excitedly, they explored Chicago’s free zoo for two hours, snapping photos, hunting for baby animals, and taking notes in their “field guides.” For these students, what could have been a morning spent playing video games on the couch was instead an opportunity to explore their city and learn about their world.
WITS on the Weekend (WoW) meets on 16 Saturdays during the school year at four Chicago schools. WoW is a unique WITS program. Like our other programs, students spend valuable time reading out loud with mentors, and are encouraged to delve into non-fiction books provided. However, WoW also has a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) component, stimulating students with weekly team challenges, creative projects, and games. Each STEAM unit culminates in a related field trip to a Chicago cultural institution or museum.
We recently kicked off a unit delving into animal habitats and adaptations by visiting the Chicago Field Museum. The next week, students used what they had observed in the animal exhibits, along with research in the WITS library, to design and create the perfect “zoo habitat” for a chosen animal. The resulting dioramas were well-planned, elaborate, and imaginative!
The Lincoln Park Zoo was the perfect field trip to wrap up our animal unit! Next up, WoW will be visiting Maggie Daley Park as part of a unit on human bodies and health. After learning about how their hearts and lungs work, students will get to use them by climbing all over the Park’s unique play structures and participating in group yoga.
The WITS on the Weekend students look forward to closing out the year at Maggie Daley Park, and to another Saturday spent exploring the city of Chicago with their friends and mentors.
By Fiona Hays, WITS Program Coordinator