Habitats are where animals choose to live depending on their particular needs. Animals can live anywhere and everywhere; underwater, on land, under ground, in the sky, in trees, in caves, in extremely cold locations and extremely hot locations. An animal’s habitat is a major component of their five basic needs: air, food, water, shelter, and space (habitat). All animals have different ways of gathering and preserving food, rearing their young, finding shelter and defending themselves. It is important to understand how animals’ behavioral and physical adaptations enable them to live in specific habitats. This unit explores concepts of hibernation, migration, camouflage, and physical and behavioral adaptions through lesson plans, activities, books, worksheets, assessments and foldables.
3.4 The student will investigate and understand that adaptations allow animals to satisfy life needs and respond to the environment. Key concepts include:
a) Behavioral adaptations, and
b) Physical adaptations
Background Information for Teachers
- In order to survive, animals act in different ways to gather and store food, find shelter, defend themselves, and rear their young.
- Physical adaptations help animals survive in their environment (e.g., camouflage, mimicry).
- Various animals possess adaptations which help them blend into their environments to protect themselves from enemies (camouflage). Camouflage is the means by which animals escape the notice of predators, usually because of a resemblance to their surroundings using coloration or outer coverage patterns.
- Mimicry occurs when a species has features similar to another species. Either one or both are protected when a third species cannot tell them apart. (Mimicry happens in both animal and plant species.) Some animals look like other animals to avoid being eaten (mimicry). This adaptation helps protect them from their predators. (For example, the viceroy butterfly tastes good to birds, but the monarch butterfly tastes bad. Because the viceroy looks like the monarch butterfly, it is safer from predators.) Mimicry can also occur as mimicked behaviors, mimicked sounds, or mimicked scents.
- Behavioral adaptations allow animals to respond to life needs. Examples include hibernation, migration, dormancy, instinct, and learned behavior.
- Some animals (e.g., groundhogs, black bears) go into a deep sleep in which their body activities slow down due to seasonal changes and they can live off stored food (hibernation). Hibernation is a condition of biological rest or inactivity where growth, development, and metabolic processes slow down.
- Some animals (e.g., geese, monarch butterflies, tundra swans) go on a long-distance journey from one place to another (migration) in search of a new temporary habitat because of climate, availability of food, season of the year, or reproduction.
- Dormancy is a state of reduced metabolic activity adopted by many organisms (both plants and animals) under conditions of environmental stress or, when such stressful conditions are likely to appear, as in winter.
- Some animals are born with natural behaviors that they need in order to survive in their environments (instincts). These behaviors are not learned but are instinctive, such as a beaver building a dam or a spider spinning a web.
- Some behaviors need to be taught in order for the animal to survive, such as a bear cub learning to hunt (learned behavior).
Although this unit will mainly explore all of the components of animals' behavioral and physical adaptations that allow them to live in habitats, it is important to first look at the picture as a whole. Therefore, this lesson looks at animals' habitats in general and familiarizes students with the idea that different animals live in different environments for various reasons. This day's lesson could be introduced by reading the class a book about habitats. Here are two books that are related:
The Great Kapok Tree. By Lynne Cherry. 2000. 40 p. Sandpiper, (978152026141). Gr. 2-3.
This book is a great story about a man who is going to chop down a Kapok tree in the rainforest. He decides to take a nap and while he is asleep all the animals that live in and depend on this tree- snakes, butterflies, a jaguar, and a child, come to him and whisper all the reasons not to cut down the tree. It really shows the interconnectedness of all living things. When he wakes up and sees all the animals around him he decides not to chop down the tree and walks out of the forest. This beautifully illustrated book can show children one habitat (the tropical rainforest in this example) can support a number of animals.
Animal Habitats! By Judy Press. Illus. by Betsy Day. 2005. 128 p. Williamson Books, (9780824967567). Gr. 3-4.
This book would be more appropriate for children to look at and browse themselves as opposed to reading it aloud because it is longer and filled with more text and information. In this book children will learn that habitat is another word for "home" and why living things appear in some geographical regions, but not in others. Additional games and activities based on topics introduced will help kids make connections between animals' behavior and it's habitat.
After reading/looking at either of these books, the teacher could introduce the lesson in which each student will be given the name of a specific animal. They will explore a WebQuest (created in PowerPoint) to learn about various habitats (desert, tundra, rainforest, forest, ocean) that will help determine where the animal would live and how this habitat meets the animal’s needs (air, water, food, shelter). In this lesson students will investigate the basic idea of animals belonging to a particular habitat based on their life needs and response to their environment.
The lesson includes a list of animals by habitat that are presented in the WebQuest sheet and an assessment rubric. This lesson will familiarize students both with animals in their habitats and discovering the internet as well.
An additional Habitats Game could also be used after the lesson for children to play around and see how well they know animals in their environments. This website also has a Teacher Information page with several habitat worksheets in PDF form. A habitat matching game is also something fun with an educational purpose for kids to do.
Here is an example of a foldable you could do with children when looking at all the different types of habitats and their environments/climates.
Day Two- Animal Adaptations
On this day students will begin to learn how different animals physically adapt and respond to their life needs and environments. One of the things that kids find most fascinating (teachers too!) are the interesting and outrageous ways some animals take the art of adaptation to the extreme. This lesson could be introduced with a book or powerpoint:
Extreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth. By Nicola Davies. Illus. by Neal Layton. 2006. 64 p. Candlewick, (9780763630675). Gr. 3-4.
Each double-page spread makes a wealth of information accessible to kids--facts about particular mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, bacteria, and more, which thrive in habitats ranging from polar wastelands to deserts and volcanoes. This funny and appealing little book describes who these amazing life-forms are and how they manage to survive. Simple and inviting cartoon drawings enliven the text and convey the types of extremes in an easy-to-understand manner.
Teachers could then move on to an Amusing Animal Adaptations lesson that will enhance students' understanding of adaptations. In this lesson students will identify the external characteristics of different kids of animals that allow their needs to be met. For assessment students will explain -- orally or in writing -- how their animal uses its adaptation to survive and/or reproduce.
Students could individually play this Animal Adaptations game after the lesson or at home. The game asks children to choose three correct adaptive characteristics of each animal presented.
Day Three- Camouflage
On this day, students will learn the art of blending into one's environment to hide from predators and avoid getting eaten. Camouflage is nature's way of hiding animals in plain sight. A couple of books are good for introducing the topic:
Claws, Coats and Camouflage: The Way Animals Fit into Their World. By Susan E. Goodman. 2001. 48 p. 21st Century (9780761318651). Gr. 2-4.
After a short introduction about adaptation, the photographs and text demonstrate how animals fit into their environment, stay safe, obtain food, and reproduce. Brief, informative statements are illustrated with a photograph; on the bottom of the page is a question designed to stimulate scientific thinking.
I See Animals Hiding. By Jim Arnosky. Illus. by the author. 2000. 32 p. Scholastic Paperbacks, (9780439232159). Gr. 1-3.
Arnosky describes the ways animals in nature camouflage themselves to escape danger. He explains how protective coloration helps woodcocks, owls, and moths stay hidden; how seasonal changes in the fur of weasels and snowshoe hares aid in concealment; and how the body shapes of speckled trout, snakes, and bittern assist them in blending in with their environments. His watercolors are eye catching for children.
In the Disguise, Disguise! activity students will learn how some animals disguise or camouflage themselves as a form of protection against predators. This resource includes a record page in PDF format, additional books and websites (How Animal Camouflage Works, Why Polar Bears Are White), background for teachers, instructional procedures and extension.
Day Four- Mimicry
On this day students will learn that mimicry occurs when a species has features similar to another species. Either one or both are protected when a third species cannot tell them apart. Some animals look like other animals to avoid being eaten. This adaptation helps protect them from their predators. (For example, the viceroy butterfly tastes good to birds, but the monarch butterfly tastes bad. Because the viceroy looks like the monarch butterfly, it is safer from predators). Mimicry can also occur as mimicked behaviors, mimicked sounds, or mimicked scents. An appropriate book to offer children to look at before starting this lesson would be:
What are Camouflage and Mimicry? By Bobbie Kalman and John Crossingham. 2000. 32 p. Crabtree Publishing Company, (9780865059627). Gr. 1-3.
This book has up-close and eye-to-eye photos of a "shade shifting" gecko and "two toned" fish and birds. Short bits of information highlight the many species that blend in and stand out with colors as well as those with sophisticated adaptations that make them look like everything from seaweed to bird droppings.
The Insect Camouflage lesson will introduce students to insect camouflage and mimicry. Camouflage and mimicry are adaptations some animals use as protection from predators.
An animal that uses camouflage matches the appearance of other objects in its environment. It might look like a leaf, a twig, flower or rock. Animals that use mimicry use colors and markings to look like another animal or object that will be avoided by the predator. The accurate completion of the chart provided in the lesson can serve as the assessment. Students could use this Seeing through Camouflage game after the lesson to see how well they know the different types of camouflage and mimicry.
Day Five- Body Coverings
On this day students will learn why animals can have very different skin or covering. Every living thing has some kind of covering (skin) to protect it from its environment. This covering can aid in defense, camouflage, locomotion, sensory perception, and is instrumental in keeping an animal from drying out. An animal’s skin may produce structures such as hair, nails, feathers, scales, horns, etc. An animals covering greatly depends on the habitat they live in. Here are a couple of easy to read books that would give kids an idea of the variety of coverings:
Do Frogs Have Fur? By Michael Dahl. Illus. by Jeff Yesh. 2006. 24 p. Picture Window Books, (9781404811256). Gr. 2-3.
An entertaining book about who has fuzz, who has fleece, who has scales, who has an outside skeleton etc.
Whose Skin is This? By Lisa M. Kee. Illus. by Ken Landmark. 2006. 24 p. Picture Window Books, (9781404803282). Gr. 2-3.
Explore all of the various skin textures- smooth, silky, slimy, slippery and scaly.
This Animal Coverings lesson plan is designed for younger children, but can be easily altered and used for upper elementary grades. The idea is still understanding the importance of animals' body coverings (hair, scales, shells, fur, feathers etc). This lesson includes background for teachers, objectives, instructional procedure, strategies for diverse learners, extensions and an assessment plan.
In addition, Animal Coverings is a website with collection of images that shows a variety of animals, each with a slightly different type of protective covering. The website also includes background information and discussion questions.
Day Six- Body Parts/ Appendages
On this day students will learn that appendages are parts, such as legs, arms, wings, fins and tails, which extend from the main body and have specific functions. The Why doesn't a polar bear slip on ice when it runs? lesson plan lets volunteers describe where polar bears live, and list different traits polar bears have that allow them to live there. This additional game about living things in their environment allows visitors to match animals' feet with their appropriate habitat and explain why they are most suitable for that environment (example duck feet in a pond).
What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? By Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. 2003. 32 p. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, (9780618256280). Gr. 1-3.
This books vibrant cut-paper collages are eye catching for children! Kids will learn really fascinating things like crickets' ears are on their knees and lizards can lose and grow back their tails for defense.
Animals On the Go is a video segment that explores the variety of methods animals use to get around in their habitat and helps illustrate the connection between form and function.
Here is an example of a foldable children could make while studying this type of physical adaptation. It focuses on the living things in their environments game listed above.
Day Seven- Behavioral Adaptations
On this day students will learn that behavioral adaption is the things animals do to survive. Like bird calls or migrating are forms of adapting. When certain species are born they have to watch their parents or others surrounding them to understand what they have to do to survive. They have to learn to cope with the weather, enemies, and environment in a "survival of the fittest" way. Behavioral adaptations allow animals to respond to life needs. Examples include hibernation, migration, instinct and learned behavior. A book you could use when talking about behavioral adaptations is:
What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You? By Steve Jenkins. 2001. 32 p. Sandpiper, (9780618152438). Gr. 3-4.
This books answers the question of what different creatures do when another wants them for dinner. The artist's trademark cut-paper collages on textured backgrounds show both attacker and potential prey on one page, and then a close-up of the animal escaping on the next.
In this Run for Your Life lesson, the student will draw a picture to show the pattern of animal tracks a scientist might find in the area after the event. This lesson includes a rubric and examples of students' work. In their own time, students could also Watch Squirrels to study animal behavior. Students would watch squirrels on a regular basis to record what they do and how they interact with other squirrels, animals and people.
Day Eight- Hibernation
On this day students will learn that some animals go into a deep sleep in which their body activities slow down due to seasonal changes and they can live off stored food. Hibernation is a condition of biological rest or inactivity where growth, development and metabolic processes slow down. Here is a book that will be helpful in introducing this subject and a power point:
Animals Hibernating: How Animals Survive Extreme Conditions. By Pamela Hickman. Illus. by Pat Stephens. 2005. 40 p. Kids Can Press, (9781553376620). Gr. 3-4.
The author focuses on hibernation, covering true hibernators, deep sleepers, and estivators. She explains why animals use this adaptation, how different species prepare for hibernating and its dangers, and how they awaken in the spring.
In the Hibernation Stations lesson plan, students will learn which animals hibernate and why. They will learn what happens to animals when they hibernate and complete activities at each station to demonstrate their knowledge of hibernation. This worksheet could be used for 2nd or 3rd graders at the end of the lesson or for homework.
Some additional websites for kids are this interactive hibernation memory matching game and a more informational site about hibernation and which animals hibernate.
Here is an example of a foldable you could get the children to make when studying which animals are true hibernators:
Day Nine- Migration
On this day students will learn that some animals go on a long distance journey from one place to another (migration) in search of a new temporary habitat because of climate, availability of food, season of the year, or reproduction. A couple of books that would be helpful for children are:
Animals on the Move. By Allan Fowler. 2000. 31 p. Children's Press, (9780516270555). Gr. 2-3.
This Rookie Read-About-Science selection presents the migration of salmon, whales, zebras, caribou and many different types of birds for young readers.
They Swim the Seas: The Mystery of Animal Migration. By Seymour Simon. Illus. by Elsa Warnick. 1998. 40 p. Harcourt Children's Books, (9780152928889). Gr. 3-5.
Simon describes the migrations of marine plants and animals from the elevator-like movements of microscopic plankton to the 4,000-mile journeys of gray whales. He has selected particularly intriguing creatures whose mysterious habits are certain to fascinate readers.
A migration Power Point could also be helpful before starting the Migration: Reasons to Move lesson. Students will review the reasons humans move around the planet. It
will then focus on migrations to and from communities, looking at the push/pull factors that lead to migration to and from certain regions. Students interview a person who migrated to the community; gather background information on the subject, including push/pull factors that motivated the person to move to the community; and create a written report or oral presentation with the results. The suggested procedure includes an opening, development, closing, extending the lesson, related links and suggested student assessment.
After the lesson students could play the game migration adventure which has Dr. Seuss following migrating birds to find where the missing bird might have migrated to. With a login and password, students could watch this migration video to learn how animals know where and when to migrate.
Day Ten- Animal Instincts
On this last day students will learn that some animals are born with natural behaviors that they need in order to survive in their environments (instincts). These behaviors are not learned but are instinctive, such as a beaver building a dam or a spider spinning a web. Some behaviors need to be taught in order for the animal to survive, such as a bear cub learning to hunt (learned behavior).
In this Animal Instincts lesson, students will learn about the difference between instinct and learned behavior, and understand how animal's instincts and behaviors help it to survive. The lesson includes discussion questions, evaluation, extensions, vocabulary and suggested readings.