In this lesson, students discover that the environmental conditions of a place determine the types of plants and animals that live there. In Part I, students watch video clips of some of the earth's more extreme biomes. They identify the challenges that exist in each environment (in terms of temperature, rainfall, soil quality, salinity, food supply, and predators) and some of the features (body structures or behaviors) of the native animals and plants that help the organisms overcome these challenges.
In Part II, students use an interactive Web activity to learn more about the earth's biomes and the animals that are adapted to living there. Students create "Feature Creature Guides" that profile one animal and its environment. Space is provided for students to draw a picture of the creature, attach a map showing where in the world the creature lives, and include a joke or poem about the creature. The last page of the guide gives students an opportunity to explain their interest in exploring a particular part of the world.
- Describe the environmental conditions of selected biomes and the plants and animals that live there
- Understand that the earth has many different biomes and that different types of organisms have adapted to the unique environmental challenges of each
- Identify the location of selected biomes on a world map
- Give examples of plant and animal features (adaptations) that help the organisms thrive in particular environments
Grade Level: 3-5
- Three 45-minute blocks
- Arctic Tundra Video
- Desert Biome Video
- Deep Sea Vents and Life's Origins Video
- Teri and Jairus: Biome Buddies Video
- Amazon Rainforest Video
- Animal Coverings Image
- Masters of Disguise Video
- Animal Defenses Video
- Handout: Why Are Creatures Featured In Only Certain Environments? Document
- Handout: Feature Creature Guide Document
- World Map Document
- Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
Before the Lesson
- Make a copy of the handouts and the world map for each student.
Organisms can survive only in environments that meet their needs. The earth has many different environments, or biomes, and each has unique environmental conditions. These conditions, which include temperature, rainfall, soil quality, salinity, pH, and predators, present challenges to the living things born into that environment. Organisms have evolved features (structures and behaviors) that allow them to tackle the challenges of the environment they live in. Changes in an organism's environment may result in death, migration, or survival of a few well-adapted individuals in the population.
1. Ask students:
- Have you ever had an adventure with one of nature's creatures? Who wants to share their story?
Tell students that in the Tropics, monkeys run around in people's backyards the way squirrels run around in the backyards of North America! Ask:
- Why don't we have monkeys running around in North America?
- What would happen to a monkey that was accidentally set free in the North American wilderness?
Explain to students that they will have the chance to explore different environments and collect information about different animals, so that they can answer this question: Why are creatures featured only in certain environments?
2. Distribute copies of the handout titled Handout: Why Are Creatures Featured In Only Certain Environments? (PDF). Then divide the class into five small groups. Assign each group one of the following videos to watch: Arctic Tundra; Desert Biome;Amazon Rainforest;Deep Sea Vents and Life's Origins; and Teri and Jairus: Biome Buddies. Note that Teri and Jairus video discusses two biomes (desert and rain forest). Have kids in this group pick one biome to answer questions about on the handout.
3. While students watch the clips, have them record on the handout their answers to the following questions:
- What challenges do living things face in this environment?
- What are some body features or behaviors of animals that allow them to live successfully in this environment?
- What are some of the special characteristics of plants that make them well-suited to living in this environment?
4. Discuss the findings of the exploration as a class. Make a list of challenges presented by the different environments. Ask each group to name a plant or animal shown in their video and a feature that enables the organism to overcome one of the challenges in its environment.
5. Next, show students the collection of Animal Coverings images. Ask them to describe each covering and explain how it might help the animal meet the challenges in its environment.
6. Many animals have evolved disguises and other body features that protect them from predators in their environment. Show students the Masters of Disguise video and the Animal Defenses video. Discuss how these strategies enable the animals to thrive in their environment.
7. For homework ask students to write a response to the following questions:
- What environmental challenges would monkeys face in a North American forest?
- Do monkeys have features that would enable them to meet these challenges successfully?
8. Ask students the following questions:
- If you could go anywhere in the world to study animals, where would you go?
- What animals would you study?
Have students spend a few minutes reflecting on their answers.
9. Instruct students to go online to research animals that live in different parts of the world.
10. Pass out copies of the Handout: Feature Creature Guide (PDF) handout and the World Map (PDF). Explain to students that they will use the information they found to highlight their animal's habitat, environmental challenges it must overcome, favorite foods, and special features (adaptations). The cover of the guide will include a drawing of the creature, the scientific name, and a funny nickname they make up for their creature (for example, Web-footed Willie). Space is also provided for students to attach a map showing where in the world their creature lives, and to include a poem or a joke about their animal. The last page of the guide gives students a chance to describe why they are interested in studying that part of the world.
- Create a "Creature Features" bulletin board. Give each student four index cards. Have them choose an animal, then write three clues that describe the animal's special features -- one clue on each card. Have them write the name of the animal on the fourth card. Encourage students to include clues about features that help the creature meet the environmental challenges it faces (for example: has long thin snout to gather insects for food). Staple each set of cards together to form a small book, with the animal name card on the bottom. Post the books on the bulletin board. At the top of the bulletin board, write the question: Can you identify these creatures?
- Take students on a walk to explore the animals and plants around school grounds. Have them draw and/or write descriptions of their observations. Discuss the features of the animals and plants they found, and how these features help the organisms to survive in their environment.
- Have students design an imaginary plant or animal that is adapted to an environment of their choice. Ask them to write a description of the organism and its adaptations and to make a drawing (or three-dimensional model) of it in its environment. Have students share their organisms with the class and display them.