4th- and 5th-graders at Harrison’s Hamilton School set up something extremely unique for all to enjoy

The Hamilton School Zoo in Harrison is open for business! Cusumano and Fontan (center), with help from Rafaela, Liam, Katie and Jonathan, have fostered a love of learning with this cross-curricular project that engaged all students at all levels and was a big hit with students, staff and parents. Photo by Laura Comppen

Lions, tigers and polar bears — oh my!

Students at Hamilton School in Harrison combined their love of animals with math, science, language arts — and some good old fashioned engineering — when they designed their very own zoo for the entire school to enjoy.

What started out as a small project with a few classes last year, blossomed into the entire fourth- and fifth-grade classes participating this year — and to great success.

Led by teachers Luciana Cusumano and Amanda Fontan, the fifth-graders collaborated in groups to plan how to build their animals using rectangular prisms and calculating the volume of each prism, as well as the whole animal. The fourth-graders designed the blueprints for the animal enclosures and calculated the perimeters.

“Students learned not only how to calculate volume, but teamwork, communication and a lot of patience,” Fontan said.

Cusumano, meanwhile, said: “Our ever-curious students researched facts about their animals and habitats, relying on cross-curricular skills from both language arts and science.”

This 100% hands-on project left an indelible mark on students.

“The animal zoo was such a fun project. The best part of this project was working together with my classmates. We learned how to calculate the volume of each body part of our animal using inches and centimeters and then calculated for the total volume. Our fourth-graders learned about the animals’ habitat and found the area and perimeter of the enclosure,” fifth-grader Jonathan Castro said.

Putting this zoo together was a team effort by all teachers and students at Hamilton School. Renee Dignazio created all of the boards and signs for the project.

“Mrs. Fontan and Mrs. Cusumano have engaged our students in an outstanding math and science project that students won’t soon forget. We are already thinking on how we can expand on this project for next year,” Hamilton School Principal Hamlet Marte said.

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Laura Comppen | Special to The Observer