Wild Animal Science!

By Theresa Ferrer, September 11, 2008

Grade Level

  • Middle School

Category

  • Landscape Design

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

four class periods

Introduction

What is the impact of an environment on the survival of a population? To answer this question, students will , by combining and juggling animal traits, create a new animal and develop theories about the relationship between their new animal and the environment. This is a creative project that has no wrong answers but which requires sufficient knowledge of an animal and its environment. This project guides students to form scientific estimations, conduct research, document findings in a scientific format, write a creative article, and design a habitat for the animal they have chosen. But there is a twist! Half way through the project the students juggle scientific facts with their classmates, and the animals become fictional, altered in fantastic ways. The process will lead students through several exciting career experiences: animal scientist, adventure journalist, and habitat designer.

National Standards

Objectives

Students will be able to:
  • explain how environmental factors impact survival of a population
  • identify and describe the effects of limiting factors on a given population
  • draw conclusions and make inferences in oral and written responses about ideas and information
  • use technical information from a variety of resources
  • use various modes of writing for differing purposes including scientific, and journalistic media

Resources

Materials

Items found in and around the student’s home will be used to construct a model of an animal habitat. These might include:
  • cardboard
  • plastic wrap
  • grass
  • sticks and twigs
  • small wild plants
  • paper
  • glue
  • markers

Vocabulary

  • habitat: the type of environment in which an organism or group normally lives or occurs
  • ecosystem: a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment, interacting as a functional unit
  • behavioral adaptations: the things organisms do to survive; for example, bird calls and migration are behavioral adaptations
  • non-native species: species that are not natural to the ecosystem they have been introduced to; species that originated elsewhere
  • population success: when a particular population thrives in a particular environment or ecosystem
  • mutualistic relationship: any relationship between two species of organisms that benefits both species; this is the relationship most people think of when they use the word "symbiosis”
   

Procedures

Activity 1: Ask the students to select a single wild animal from a set of images that you have provided. You can pull images from the wild animal lists on www.wildanimalsonline.com or http://animal.discovery.com/. Have the students form scientific estimations based on the appearance of the wild animal they have chosen. Provide a list of questions such as: What does the animal eat?  Where does it sleep?  What other animals does it interact with or rely on? What type of environment does it live in?  What physical traits does it have that help it survive in that environment? what temperature does it prefer?  Who are its predators? Next, ask the students to research the animal they have chosen by using the library and internet to find the real answers to these questions. Lead an interactive discussion about how their findings compare to their estimations. In the discussion ask questions like:  What characteristics in the animal image that led them to make their estimations?  What they were right about?  Wrong about and what surprised them most? Also ask them to share how they conducted their research and what resources were the most helpful or interesting. Homework:  Use all your research findings to write an informative article for a scientific magazine about the wild animal you have chosen. Credit yourself in the article as “Dr. so-and-so, Wild Animal Scientist” or some equally creative title. Activity 2: Have each student swap their article with another student in the class. Ask them to read the article silently and choose a physical trait about the animal they have just read about that is very dissimilar to their own animal. Ask them to consider how the addition of this physical trait to their own animal would change the relationship of that creature to its environment. Have them answer the same questions they researched previously but this time to do so using their imagination about the fictional animal.  Tell your students that they will now design a habitat specifically for this new animal.  Allow them to research how similar animals live and how they adapt to their surroundings.  This habitat must address all of the answers they gave about their new animal, including where it sleeps, where it finds food, what other animals also live there, the climate, and where geographically it is located.  Ask your students to build a 3D model of their habitat to illustrate their plan.  Have each student write an article for the “local paper” announcing the discovery of this new animal and describing the habitat that has been built to accommodate it at the local zoo. The article should entice people to visit the zoo to see the new wild animal. Have the student sign the article as “So-and-so, Adventure Journalist” or some equally creative title. Activity 3: Have the students split into groups of three or four to share their habitat models and corresponding articles. Encourage them to ask questions and critique each other’s work. Allow them to make changes to both the model and the article based on the peer feed-back. Activity 4: Have the students present their final models and articles to a staff member or members from the local zoo or veterinary office.    

Assessment

In this lesson plan successful learning will be determined by evaluating the two written articles and the two presentations.    

Enrichment Extension Activities

Encourage the students to discuss their projects at home. Create a contest doing the same project with another class or school.

Teacher Reflection

I have not done this one yet... looking forward to it! I'll update this lesson plan when we've completed the series.

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