Oak Knoll Zoos Are in the News

This week, the Official News Site of the Archdiocese of Newark spotlighted Oak Knoll’s Lower School STEM program. Their article, entitled “Catholic stewardship of care for creation learned through virtual zookeeping project,” highlights a January 2024 multi-disciplinary project completed by grade 4 that incorporated the 3D programming tool CoSpaces Edu to create virtual zoos as a culmination of their science unit on the structure and function of plants and animals.

Each fourth-grade student was tasked with researching a particular animal. In science class, they studied the structure and function of plants and animals, and the virtual zoo brought their learning into play. Rather than group them by geographic region or habitat, students needed to analyze their research and determine the sensory receptor most important for the animal’s survival. Using evidence to cite their claim is an important scientific skill.

“During these collaborative times in class, we focused on offering ‘glows’ and ‘grows,’” Grade 3-6 STEM Teacher Teacher Regina Cherill explained. “Seeking to balance improvement suggestions with praise is a valuable peer feedback skill.”

A significant piece of Catholic teaching in this project focused on stewardship, including carefully planning what would be in each exhibit. Students discussed and explored humane zoo designs and the planning that goes into habitat enrichment. “We thought about our role as stewards of the planet and the obligations we have to protect animals, along with the opportunity to appreciate the diversity of animal life on our planet,” said Cherill.

Another vital skill set in project-based learning is seeing challenges as opportunities. When students encountered difficulty with software or functionality, they were encouraged to ask each other and their teachers, “I have this idea, but I need XYZ.” “This is where the collaborative environment of Oak Knoll’s classroom shines,” said Cherill.

To experience the students’ virtual zoos firsthand, visit:

With hands-on projects in a learning environment grounded in Holy Child values, even our youngest students are proving that Oak Knoll students Live by Faith, Learn by Doing, and Lead by Example.