The suspected duck thief, known by Ms. Smith's advisory as King Louis the XIX

Project-Based Learning in the Farmyard

Orion Vogiatzis ‘27 was clearly in a hurry, but he agreed to stop by Zeskind Hall to talk about his sixth grade science class. “In life specifics we are learning about age, life span, and personality, especially focusing on animals that are stealing the ducks. I’m hoping to learn more about animals because I love nature. I like science because we get to track storms, experiment, and now we’re heading out to the farmyard!” And then he was off.

Ms. Kelly Smith and her sixth grade science students are focused on improving or creating an insulated shelter for the chickens and ducks in our farmyard. The students are divided into research teams, and each team represents a piece of a systematic puzzle that will ultimately piece together as a functioning, useful product.  

The problem: A predator stole two of The Gregory School farmyard's ducks. Who is next? We MUST do something to solve this problem!

A generous family donated a trail camera to help the teams figure out what is stealing the ducks. The camera supports a major piece of the integrated farmyard project—engineering an energy efficient shelter to keep chickens and ducks within the safe range of summer and winter temperatures in conjunction with a potential safe house from predators. 

Teams Include: 

  1. Farmyard creature experts: wellness and data collection for color, breed, size, etc.
  2. Meteorology: analysis of air composition, weather, humidity, movement of air, light from the sun.
  3. Structural Engineering: design and architecture 
  4. Material science and insulation specific to our desert climate.
  5. Technology and energy efficiency: shelter ventilation, experimenting with ways to prevent predator visits using solar and/or wind to generate motion sensored light(s) or sound. 
  6. Desert predator forensics: analysis of predator visits using data from trail camera pictures
  7. Southern Arizona laws protecting threatened and endangered predators
Which will be the chosen shelter? It’ll be up to our farmyard friends to decide!

I have had the pleasure to work on the Farmyard Project with Max, Kalil, and Noah. My roles have involved structural engineering, material science, and desert predator forensics. This project has been incredibly stimulating as it encourages team science, and has required using the scientific method for a real issue related to providing shelter for our beloved farmyard animals. I have enjoyed thinking through how to structurally create a stable and insulated shelter to protect the animals from harsh climates while also employing forensic science to assess predatory threats to our ducks. It has been an enjoyable endeavor to work with my classmates towards a shared goal and I can not wait to see the final product!

- Simran Shroff ‘27


3231 N. Craycroft Road, Tucson, AZ 85712
Phone: (520) 327-6395
Fax: (520) 327-8276
The Gregory School is an independent, private,
non-profit 501(C)(3), coed day school for grades 5-12.