I challenged my fifth grade students to integrate learning from English, mathematics, science, and technology to construct "TechnoAquariums". Students were presented this problem: "In order to understand the physical, geological, and biological characteristics of ocean environments, you will design and construct aquarium models for six different marine communities." Students were then grouped into collaborative teams (pods) of four. Teams selected an environment (coral reef, kelp forest, open ocean intertidal zone, Chesapeake Bay, or the depths). Teams built six marine aquariums, one per pod, using three, 32" X 16" (two 32"X 16" and one cut into two 16" X 16" ) acrylic panels seamed together with Grafer's tape (clear seamless tape that can be purchased at a building supply store). Then they applied Dr. Spotte's rule (stock no more than 1 linear inch of animal for every six gallons of water) in order to calculate the volume of water and make scaled animal models to stock aquariums. They also used inexpensive materials (Model Magic, Rigid Wrap, paint, constuction paper, tissue paper, sand ) to build animal models and environments within their aquariums.

Teams began researching their marine communities using a variety of sources (library books, CD-ROM and Internet databases, wildlife cards). They wrote information on notecards and summarized their findings in paragraph form using a word processing program (Word Perfect). Next they calculated the volume of their aquarium enclosures in order to make animals to scale. Then they stocked their aquarium with animals and acted as tour guides to classes visiting their aquariums.

The assessment component of "TechnoAquarium" consists of evaluating oral presentations. Each team member provides a 3-5 minute talk on their marine animal (its needs, characteristics, habits) and how it fits into the overall marine community. Then WebWeaver (six fifth graders who maintain the school's web pages) designed, built and linked "TechnoAquarium" web pages to the Christiansburg Elementary School (CES) web site as a project others can adapt for use in their classrooms.

 Twenty-four fifth graders ( six teams of four students ) selected a marine community:

If you would like more information about TechnoAquariums, please e-mail

Mrs. Ney's Grade 5 Class - Christiansburg Elementary School:

Christiansburg Elementary School's Home Page


Date Updated: May 14, 2004