After the Christmas break, which sadly ends tomorrow (sigh), we will be starting a unit on Animal and Plant Adaptations and Habitats. I always get excited about this unit because it's fun and kids generally already have a pretty good knowledge base so it makes things easier and you can do more fun and interesting things.
Here are some fun activities you can use to help you teach all about animals and how they have adapted to survive in their habitats.
1) Our science lab teacher did a fun activity with our students last year. After discussing what camouflage was with the students and showing them examples, she gave each student a blank butterfly to color. She asked them to think about a place in the room where they could "hide" their butterfly. You will want to discuss how to make your butterfly camouflaged in the room, i.e. coloring yours a color that will help it hide. After the students had all colored their butterflies, she had each student line up outside the classroom door so they couldn't see in the room. She let one student in at a time to tape or put their butterfly somewhere. Students may not actually hide their butteflies under things. They have to be able to be seen without moving anything. So, after each student hides their butterfly, allow all the students to come in and find as many butterflies as they can. Give them a 1 minute time limit. After the 1 minute is up, gather together and discuss which ones weren't found and why. One thing you may want to remember is to keep your eye on the ones hiding their butterflies so they aren't hunting for others. This is a really fun and great way to teach all about camouflage.
2) Play "The Hunter and the Hunted." Rules as follows:
1. Tell students that they are going to engage in an activity that should help them answer the question - How do animals and plants survive in their habitats. They will pretend to be animals.
2. Divide the class into two even parts. Label one group “the hunters” and the other side “the hunted”. Tell them that “the hunters” are animals that need to eat “the hunted” in order to survive.
3. Explain that the hunters will “eat” the hunted by tagging them. NOTE: As always, safety must be your first consideration. If you believe that your class is incapable of doing this safely, modify accordingly. For instance, you could insist that students walk instead of run.
4. Explain that when “the hunted” are tagged, they must squat down and remain in one place, indicating that they have been eaten.
5. “The hunters” may continue to hunt until all of “the hunted” have been eaten. NOTE: Before starting the game, define the physical boundaries and make one more reminder of safety.
6. Start the game and wait until all of “the hunted” have been tagged.
7. Ask any surviving “hunted” to raise their hands. There should be none.
8. Tell the class that you are going to introduce some adaptations into the game, and ask “the hunted” to come to you. Distribute the Physical Attribute cards (attached) to six of them. Explain that they are to follow the directions on the card.
9. Conduct the game again. This time, however, you will have to call time because not all of “the hunted” will be eaten. Ask again that surviving “hunted” show their hands. Ask these survivors to explain the difference between the first and second games.
This game is fun because it gets kids up, moving, and simulating how animals use their adaptations to survive.
3) Food Chain Sort - Distribute bags of pictures with different food chains to each group. Have students work together to put the pictures in the correct order of the flow of energy. Once completed, have groups mix up their pictures again for the next group. Have groups rotate to each table putting the chains in order until all groups have had a turn to do each bag. Hint: I just used Word Clip Art for my pictures and cut them all out. I would suggest laminating them as well for multiple uses.
4) Adaptation Concentration - Have students work with partners to match the physical or behavioral adaptation to it's definition.
These are just some fun things you can do to help students learn and enjoy learning all about animal adaptations and how they survive in their habitats!