a mini-unit on animal adaptation

essons collec ed by April Larremore Clipart by DJ lnkers


The Earth has many different environments, varying in temperature, moisture, light, and many other factors. Each of these habitats has distinct life forms living in it, forming complex communities of interdependent organisms. A complex community of plants and animals in a region and a climate is called a biome.

How to Make a I?iome Project

Use Internet sources to find out more about the different biomes like the tundra biome, grasslands, forest or freshwater biome, for example. Check out sites like and or conduct a Google search on the individual biome name to learn characteristics about the environment and the animals that live there.

Choose an animal that's got a lot of interesting facts to write about in a report and build into the biome project. Also consider how easy it will be to create a nice-looking biome-pretty blue and green "waves" constructed with corrugated blue ccrdstcck for an ocean biome may be more eye-catching than layers of sand for a desert biome, for instance.

Find a container to house your biome project that also evokes the feel of the habitat. Use a clear blue container if you have a freshwater biome, for example. You can also use texture sand spray to cover a shallow basket, shoebox, or box lid for a desert biome, white paint for the arctic tundra biome or corrugated green paper to become a grasslands biome.

start the interior of the 3rd grad biome project with the animal that has been chosen. Find

a plastic or rubber version of the animal, make one out of clay or even cut and fold a photo into a dimensional shape. The size of the animal object you find will help you choose items of the proper scale to surround it.

I?uild the biome environment around the animal using realistic touches. Use twigs and grass to form the base of a grasslands or desert biome; plastic sea grass, shells and rocks from an aquarium shop for an ocean biome; or faux snow for the arctic tundra biome, for example. Decorative paper from the scrapbook store can be used to make small lakes, river rock areas, sandy beaches and more.

Turn the science project into an interesting glimpse at the animal's life by creating "scenes" in different parts of the biome. For example, show it interacting with its natural predators,

prey or other onimcls in the biome. Creute o section where it's cqring for its young or migrqting between secsons.

Missouri I?otqnicql Gqrden Site

l.ecrn cbout biomes of the world end different ecosystems. This site provides some pictures end simple inforrnotion cbout the biomes end ecosystems.

I?iomes of the World website

This site provides lots of greqt simple infcrmction cbout terrestriol end cquotic biomes I


Interdependence occurs when people or countries depend on someone else to provide the goods end services they consume. In ncture this idee meqns thot everything is connected to everything else, including the living end non-living pqrts of ecosystems. Whqt hqppens to one plqnt or cnimc] else effects other plqnts end onimcls.


Lesson Summqry

This book explqins how cnts work together to survive in their qnt cities. The book describes the different tcsks thct eqch qnt does in the qnt city. Your students will leqrn mqny interesting fqcts qbout cnts, including how to mqke q simple "qnt fqrm!"

In whet Wqy does en qnt city illustr-ate interdependence?

The cnts in en qnt city speciclize in their jobs. In doing so, they qll depend on eqch other for survive].

What are some of the special jobs/tasks done by the bees?

Queen - lays eggs; Workers - do all the work in the ant city and also fight to protect the nest; New Queens - have wings to flyaway and start new ant cities; Males - flyaway with new queens to mate, then die.

What would happen if different types of ants didn't do their special job(s)?

The ants could not survive unless they worked together. All the ants have a special job that helps ensure the survival of the ant city.

What are some of the special jobs in your city or community that people do? Teachers, plumbers, TV repair people, doctors, factory workers, police officers, store owners, etc. There are countless examples.

How do these people in your community depend on one another?

The people in the community specialize in the jobs they do. Then, they exchange the money they earn and pay others for the goods and services they provide. All of us are interconnected/interdependent in that we rely on others to provide most of the goods and services we consume.

Is it good to be interdependent?

Specializing in production and then exchanging/trading to get the goods and services one wants makes production more efficient, providing society with more goods and

services. Generally, this is good for everyone. However, sometimes interdependence can be troublesome. For example, our country relies heavily on oil produced from other countries. In most cases, that is not a problem, but when there is political instability, prices may rise dramatically and our dependence becomes very costly.

Elementary Ecosystems

This lesson teaches students the basics of species interdependency within an ecosystem or habitat. Students will perform a simple simulation to see how one species can affect many others, and gain a basic understanding of the importance of biodiversity. For older students, you may want to define and use the word "ecosystem" in the lesson.

Materials Required:

• Computer with Internet access

• Photographs of endangered animals (either online or in print)

• Photographs of human activities that might affect animals' habitats (either online or in print)

• Drawing materials


Students will

• describe the things onimcls need to survive end the wcys in which onimcls depend on other cnirnc Is end p kmts;

• perform o simulction to demonstrcte the interdependencies within en ecosystem;

• look ct pictures of endqnqered onimcls, end explqin whqt they think might happen to other onimcls end plqnts if these onimcls become extinct; end

• drew pictures of onimcls in their noturc] hcbitcts, end describe whqt these onimcls need to survive.

Suggested procedure


Ask students to think of some onimcls thot they qre fcmilior with, such cs their pets or onimcls thot live outdoors necr their homes. Ask them to stcte the things these cnirncls need to survive, such cs wqter, food, o plqce to mcke their home, end enough room to run end rocrn.


Ask students to think more ccrefully cbout the onimcls they hove described. Discuss the following questions with the closs:

• Whqt do the cnirnc Is eqt?

• Where do they live?

• How do they depend on the plqnts end other onimcls cround them?

• Whqt would hqppen to these qnimqls if their mqin food source no longer existed?

Assign eqch student the role of q loco] plqnt or qnirnq] (more thqn one student cqn plqy the scrne role). Ask everyone to stcnd on one side of the clqs sr'oom. Then csk one "plqnt' or "cnimo]" to step out of the picture. For exqrnp]e, you could soy, "will qll the oqk trees pleqse sit down?" The children tqking their sects would represent the dying out oqk trees in your creo.

Ask students if qny other species depend on the oqk tree (or whctever loco] species you hove qsked to sit down). Give them hints if they qre unsure (e.g., the squirrel eqts ocorns]. If qny species depends on the species you hove qsked to sit down, those students wi II hove to sit cs well. Continue until there qre no (or very few) students left stqnding.

Discuss the implicqtions of the sirnulqtior: with the class. Whqt hqppens to the plqnts qnd qnimqls in en cr-ec when one type of plqnt or qnirnq] dies out? Moke sure students under-stond thct qll plqnts qnd qnimqls in en cr-ec (qn ecosystem) depend on one cnotber. Con they think of other examples of dependence, such qs in their [qmilies, with their friends, or qt school?

Hqve students look ct pictures of the endqnqered onimcls ct the Preservingl?iodiversity fqmily activity or ct the I?qgheerq Web site. Explqin thot there qre fewer of these cnirncls in the wild then there used to be. Define the word "extinct" end csk students whot they think might happen to other plqnts end onimcls if these onimcls become extinct.


Hqve students look ct pictures of onimcls living in their ncturc] hcbitcts. Choose some pictures beforehqnd, either from books or rnoqczines, Nqtionql Geogrqphic's Animqls guide or Creqture Feqture qrchive, or the I?qgheerq Web site. Hove students drew pictures of these onimcls end then describe, either in writing or out loud, the things these cnirncls need to rernoin heqlthy end hqppy.

Suggested Student Assessment:

Ask students to broinstorm the recsons why they think some species might be in trouble, in cddition to the ecosystem-relqted recsons they hove discussed. Con they think of qny Wqys in which humcn cctivities might effect the lives of onimcls? Show them pictures of construction, recrection, end other humcn activities, end hove them explqin how the cctivities in ecch picture might effect cnirncls. Ask them to drew pictures of o few of the onimcls they looked ct in the closing, end drew them in their noturc] hcbitcts. Then hove them drew examples of how humcn cctivities might ccuse problems for the onimcls. Extending the Lesson:

Hqve students drew pictures of heqlthy ecosystems in which mqny plqnt end cnirnc] species coexist. They ccn get idees from pictures of ncturc] orecs necr their homes or other print or Web rnotericls you hove cvcilcble. Ask them to describe, either in writing or out loud, whqt would hqppen if the trees or cnother species were to die off.

This lesson come from this site. Go to the site to use the links.

students will demonstrcte en under-stcndinq of the interdependence of onimcls, people end plqnts in the roinforest by pqrticipqting in on ecosystem simulction.

Mctericls: bqll of ycm

one 411 x 611 note cord for ecch student colored felt pens or crcvons



Reqd The Greet Kqpok Tree by Lynne Cherry. Ask students to pqy ottention to the mqny qnimqls thct rely on the Kqpok Tree for their needs.

After reqding, osk students:

How importqnt wcs the Kqpok tree? To whom wcs it importqnt?

How do you think the qnimqls in the story felt, when they sew q humor: who wcs bigger qnd stronger thqn them come to chop down their tree?

In the end, who hos the finql Sqy / power for whqt will hqppen? (humqns do)

Think of some examples in our community where our ecosystem mqy be in dcnqer. (i.e. pollution, littering, cqr exhcust.)

Moke necktie-cqrds in qdvqnce or hove students mqke the food web cords before the gqme is plqyed. Reproduce the food web listed below.

A I?qsic Rqinforest Ecosystem Kqpok Tree

Tree Frogs

1?0q Constrictor I?ee


T ouccn, Mccow Tree Porcupines Jqguqr Anteqters Sloths

Yonomcrno Tribe Children

Write o single web component on ecch cord. When finished, punch o hole in the two top corners of ecch cord end string o piece of ycm cbout two feet in length through the holes, tying o loop thot ccn Iqter be plqced over the student's heed. These cords will be worn by the students to identify their role cleqrly to the entire closs while plqying the gqme. (Use picture cues especiclly for youngest).


'. Hqve students drew role cords from o hot, end put them on so their roles qre visible.

Students form o circle. The student thot represents the Kqpok Tree stcnds in the middle of the circle, holding o long dowel upright, with 30 strings qttqched. (*NI? use cs mqny strcnds cs qre children in the clcss), As the nqrrqtor (teqcher) recites the story, eqch qnirnq] tokes o strcnd of yqrn from the .. tree". This will form q "web of dependence" on the tree. Once qll qnimqls hove been presented, the teocher (qS q woodcutter) will cut the Kqpok Tree down, cutting qll .. ties" from tree to qnimqls, This qction will represent "deforestrotion" qnd how it hcrrns our ecosystem by creqting en irnbqlqnce.


How do you think the qnimqls feel now thct the Kqpok Tree hos been cut down? Whqt wi II hqppen to the qnimc Is?

Whqt will hqppen to the people in the rcinfor-est?

In q "commumty"> ecosystem such cs the roinforest, qll living things ere dependent on one onother, for food, shelter, qnd mqny other things. We shcre "resources" in our community to meet our needs, but we must be corefu] not to "use up" these resources - whet will be left?


Students will create mobiles to reveal their understanding of the rainforest ecosystem. Using coat hanger wire and string, students will construct a three-dimensional "dependence web" utilizing the animal and people-characters in The Great Kapok Tree. Students will also be evaluated informally during question time, when we wrap up the activity. While in group discussion, I will observe whether students understand the concept of interdependence. (Whether students are hesitant or hasty to answer questions, if they stay on task, if they are attentive, and if they ask questions etc.)

(Tips for retelling)

Students stand in a circle. Kapok in Center, holds ball of yarn and stick. Narrator/teacher -

When you hear your name called, come to the Kapok Tree and he will give you what you need. (Kapok gives yarn string).

The boa constrictor lives in the Kapok Tree. He slithered down the trunk. The Kapok Tree is the bods home. It has been home for our family for years and years. We are dependent on you for shelter.

The bees buzz around the Kapok Tree. They have built their hive in the tree. The bees fly from tree to tree and flower to flower collecting pollen. They pollinate the trees and flowers throughout the rainforest. The Kapok Tree provides a place for bees to build many hives.

'. The monkeys swing from vines to branches of the Kapok Tree. They are dependent on your vines to swing on. The Kapok Tree provides many vines to many monkeys to swing from branch to branch.

The tree frogs crawl on your leaves. Tree frogs need the leaves to hide from predators - so they can be camouflaged. Your leaves match our skin perfectly.

I. The jaguar also sleeps in the tree - he finds his lunch and supper in the Kapok tree. The Kapok Tree provides a home to the jaguar's prey - the animals that he depends on for food.

I. The porcupines swing down the Kapok tree from branch to branch: lIWe need you for our OXYGEN. All animals - people included - need you to breathe!

The anteaters climb down the Kapok Tree with their young clinging onto their backs. They say: 1I0ur children are dependent on you. You provide us with a home! Without you, our children have no [utur-e!"

I. The sloths began climbing down VERY SLOWLY from the canopy of the Kapok Tree. You are such a beautiful tree. On you, flowers grow and butterflies rest. You make the rainforest a beautiful place.

, Two children from the Yonomcrno tribe wclked up to the Kqpok Tree end scid: "You provide shcde for the forest floor, end o sturdy trunk for our fqmily's home. On you we depend for fruits end other vegetqtion to eqt. ..

), Then the woodcutter come from the huge furniture fqctory in Ccncdo. (mqke up o fqctory nqme] He come with o huge, heqvy ex end beqqn chopping the Kqpok Tree down. Soon, the entire tree WqS chopped down. (Pretend to "chop" down the tree, cutting qll .. ties" from Kqpok Tree to cnirnc Is).

This lesson come from

iTitle - Designer Animql- Animql Adq~tqtions

This is o useful lesson for teqching cnimc] cdoptctions. It fits well with Science or Socic] Studies when exqmininq endcnqered cnimols etc. This lesson introduces students to, or extends students' knowledge on, the concept of odoptction in cnimcls - the ideo thot certoin onimcls hove developed feqtures which help them survive in their environment.

Lesson Forrnct

!?egin lesson by tqlking cbout onimcls which hove physicql feqtures which mcke them well suited to their environment (with older children: survive] of the fittest). This includes onimcls which qre ccmoufloqed to their hcbitot, feqtures which qllow onimcls to survive in their clirnqte, end feqtures which qllow onimcls to get food end defend themselves. Physico] feqtures include:

Elephcnt - trunk Giroffe - neck

Shqrk - sense of smell

Echidnc - spines Gecko - [oke tqil

Hunting dogs - ecr-s Lion - color, clows

Polqr beer - coql, color, clows Skunk - smell

Kqngqroo - hind legs

GOqt - surefootedness Zebrq - whot hqppened there?

!?right colors indicqting poisonous Sloth - cqn be mqn-mqde

Animqls gqin qnd qdqpt their physicql feqtures over millions of yecr-s, but our tosk todqy is going to cut down thct time just q little - you qre going to design qn qnimo] which is perfectly suited to its environment.

!?qckground lnformcticn: It is the future, the yeqr 3000, qnd it is now possible for humcns to build plqnets, qnd geneticqlly engineer or creqte plqnts qnd qnimqls to live on thct plqnet. You qre one of the scientists working on the qnimqls, qnd it is your job to design qnd creqte

em cnimc] which will be perfectly suited to its environment on this new plqnet.

Tqsk: You need to pick one of the following environments of clreqdy er-ected plqnets end crecte en cnimc] which is going to be strong end resilient enough to survive in thot environment. You need to consider how this cnimc] is going to stcy wqrm or cool, whqt it is going to eqt, how it is going to get its food end wqter, end how it is going to cere for its young to mcke sure they survive. Your cnimc] must FIT INTO the existing food choin - it cermet be the ultimqte predqtor (the one which ccn eqt everything else end nothing con eqt it).

ENVIRONMENTS Select 1 of the following:

1: This plqnet is dcrk end cold most of the time. It is very mcuntcincus. It roins olmost qll dqy. I?ecquse of the wet, dcrk conditions, the only plqnts thot grow well qre smqll mosses end funguses. Animqls on this plqnet include o type of mouse, o nocturne] hunting Iqrge cot, fish, end o variety of insects.

2: This plqnet is dry end hot. Most of the plqnet is flqt. Wqter is found in underground streorns but there is little wqter on the surfcce of the plqnet. Most of the plqnet's surfoce is covered in send, qlthough there qre pqtches of dry grqss. When plqnts ccn get their roots down into the wqter tcble, they grow into tqll trees with leoves ct the top but not qlong the trunk. Plqnts which qre not connected to the wcter tqble qre smqll qnd dry, but they qre edible. Animqls on this plqnet include insects, q species of birds which roost in the high trees, q sqnd-colored lizord qnd q type of ret,

3. This plqnet is tropicql: wet qnd hot. Most of the plqnet is covered by rcinfor-est. The plqnet is very flqt. Wqter collects in Iqrge pools qnd [ekes which hove wcter in them qll yeqr 'round. A species of poisonous plqnt grows thickly on the ground. The spines of this plqnt qre poisonous, qnd qny qnirnq] which steps on one is sure to die. The vegetqtion is plentiful, qnd includes [ecves, fruits qnd nuts. Animqls include cornivorous snckes, vcrieties of insects, monkeys, fish qnd birds.

4. This plqnet hos q moderqte climqte. It never gets very hot or very cold, but stoys mild qll yeqr 'round. It reins for pqrt of the yeqr qnd the wcter forms pools qnd [ekes which dry up towords the end of the yeqr qnd then the plqnet is very dry. The plqnet is pqrtly mountcinous qnd pqrtly flqt. Vegetqtion includes tqll trees with high lecves qnd fruit, qnd o

smeller plqnt which beers nuts. However, these nuts qre inside herd shells which need to be removed before the nut ccn be ecten. Animqls include rcts end mice which live underground, insects, birds thot nest in the tqll trees, slow moving mornmcls which else live in the trees end o species of cornivorous nocturne] wolf.

When you qre designing your cnimc] consider the following:


· Whqt does it eqt?

· How wi II it cctch/ get food end wqter?

· How will it keep worm/cool

· Where will it shelter?

· How will it protect/defend itself from cttcckers?

In the rest of the spcce, which should be clrnost o pqge, you need to drew o lcbeled picture of your creuture. If you wish, you mqy just drew orrows from your list of criteria to your picture rcther then write it qll out qqqin. Give your cnimc] o nqme end conqrotulctions! You've er-ected o new cnirnc]


· Hcs the student fulfilled qll pqrts of the tcsk?

· Hcs the student chosen feqtures which qllow the cnimc] to survive in this environment?

·Is it neqtly presented qnd Iqbeled?

This lesson was written by Rqchel Kerr

iTitle - Animal Ada~tation I?y Kristie Rubino


Students will pretend that they are 'Mowglill from the story "The Jungle I?ookll and they have to adapt to different groups of animals in order to survive in the jungle.

Students will need to work with their group to investigate and research the animal group assigned to them and generate a probable solution to the given problem.

Using classroom resources and materials, give students the opportunity to create a 'livable' environment or habitat for their assigned animal.


Definitions of vocabulary words and definitions

Assigned animal per group; lions, Elephants, monkeys, and pythons Information resource list for each animal, generated by students

Vocabulary: (Definitions listed separately)

Elephant, habitat, climate, adaptation, monkey, environment, weather, lion, python, cho rccteristic behavior

Set/Focusing event:

Has anyone ever seen the way a monkey swings and climbs high in the trees? What characteristics does a monkey have that make them able to do this? Can you do this? Why not?

Has anyone ever seen the wayan elephant swings its trunk? What do you think an elephant uses its trunk for? What do we have instead of a trunk that the elephant does not but serves the same purpose?

Has anyone ever seen a python, or any snake? What does the python do to its food before it eats it? Is there anything we squeeze in order to eat it? (Example, fresh squeezed orange juice)

Has anyone ever seen a lion? What type of animal is similar to a lion? We keep them as pets? What is the difference between a lion and a cat? What does a lion have that a cat does not?


We talked about the different kinds of animals and they adapt to their environments but how do we adapt to ours? Has anyone ever lived in a warm place and then moved to a cold place or lived in a cold place and moved to a warm place? What did you have to do differently? Well what if you were told that you were going to go and live in the jungle, but

you weren't going to live in o house? You were going to live with o group of lions? How would you solve this problem?

Imp lementction;

Direct students to the resecrch chert (creqted by the teocher ) excmple:

Animql Adqptqtion

Knowledge: Whqt we clreqdy know. Whqt do we need to know more qbout to help us with our problem? How ccn we find the inforrnotion thot we need? Lets review whqt we hove leqrnedl

Introduce the problem thot you wen] the students to solve.


If you were forced to live in the jungle like Mowgli from the story "The Jungle I?ookll you would need to mcke some chqnges. You will hove to reseorcb cnirnc] behovior end describe whqt you would need to do in order to qdqp] to the group to survive in the jungle. You will need to know whqt foods you will eqt, how you will protect yourself, end where you will live. In order to do this, you will need to reseorch one of the following onimcls within o smqll group.

c.Lions b.Monkeys c.Pythons d.Elephqnts

I will be qssigning you q 'reseorch group' qnd within this group you will resecrch qll aspects of the qnirnq] from where it lives (on q world mqp) to whqt it eqts, qnd how you would live there if you hod to. (Sepqrqte individuc] qdqptqtion resecrch worksheet prepqred by the teocher)


1. Whqt do we qlreqdy know obou] qnirnq] qdqptqtion qnd their environments?

2. Whqt more do we need to know in order to begin to solve the problem discussed in the implementqtion?

3. Whqt qre the aspects of the qnimql's environment thct qre different from our own?

4. Whqt qre some examples you hove experienced in chcnqe of environment? (Exqmple, did you move from o wormer plqce to o colder plqce? Whqt did you hove to do differently?)


1.(Group discussion) How did they like it? Whqt didn't they like cbout it? 2.(Group discussion) Whqt did they leorn?

3.lnvite ecch student to tclk cbout the completion of their individual odoptction research worksheet end shore their drqwinq with the closs

4. Hqve o closs pqrty end mcke some fun foods representing those they would hove ecten if they were to qdcp] to cncther environment

~nimql Adqptqtions

All onimcls live in hcbitcts. Hcbitcts provide food, wqter, end shelter which onimcls need to survive, but there is more to survive] then just the hcbitct. Animqls else depend on their

physicql feqtures to help them obtcin food, keep scfe, build homes, withstand weqther, end qttrqct metes. These physicql feqtures qre celled celled physicql cdoptctions. Physico] cdoptctions do not develop during en onimcl's life but over mqny generqtions. The shqpe of o bird's beck, the number of fingers, color of the fur, the thickness or thinness of the fur, the shqpe of the nose or ecrs qre qll examples of physicql cdoptctions which help different cnirncls to survive.

Go to _id=4750 for. specific informqtion qbout qnimqls qnd the body pqrts they hqve thqt help them qdqpt.

EcoKids http://www.ecokids.cCl/pub/eco_info/topics/climqte/qdqptqtions/index.cfm

Animql Adqptqtion Online Gorne

iT o~ Ten Animql Adq~tqtions This pqge describes the qdqptqtion the qnirnq] uses qnd provides q greqt picture cs qn exqrnple. My fqvorite is "plqying possum"

~nimql Adq~tqtion T eqcher's Guide ours/ AnimqlAdqp.pdf

This pqge offers q greqt teccher's guide thct provides inforrnotion qbout qdqptqtion, body pqrts, body coverings, qnd specific qnimqls, Eqsy to reed formct.

:Animal Ada~tations - Vocabulary;

Adaptation A body part, body covering, or behavior that helps an animal survive in its environment.

I?ehavior The actions of an animal.

Camouflage A color or shape in an animal's body covering that helps it blend into its environment.

Environment Everything that surrounds and affects a living thing. The environment includes non-living things, such as water and air, as well as other living things.

Habitat The place where an animal lives. The physical characteristics of an animal's surroundings.

Inborn I?ehavior (instinct) A behavior an animal is born with and does not have to learn. Mimicry An adaptation in which an otherwise harmless animal looks like a harmful animal in order to protect itself.

Predator An animal that hunts and eats other animals for food.

Prey An animal that is taken and eaten by another animal (predator) for food. Survive/Survival Using adaptations to continue to live.

Free poweq:>oint Presentations on Ada~tation Animal Adaptations (many!)

What Do These Animals Do In Winter? Animal Adaptations (1-3)

Adaptation in Animals

Camouflage (This takes you to a whole other list- the first one is great on the list, but I did not get a chance to look at all of the others

Hibernation and Migration (same as above

Habitat powerpoints- htm I (ponds, biomes, rainforest, etc.)

Scholastic Animal Ada~tion Lesson