In my experience, every child’s favorite topic in life science is habitats. They love learning about the different animals that live in each habitat, and how much snow or rain each one receives.
In this lesson, designed for students in grades 3-5, they will learn a small bit of information about 7 different habitats. They will then take that knowledge and expand on it by working in groups, (or as individuals if you choose) to focus on one habitat that you assign to them. They will share the information they learn with the class so all the students will have a greater understanding of the 7 habitats.
1. Students will learn what the word habitat means
2. Students will learn the major characteristics (climate, plant and animal life, geographical location) of these seven different habitats:
Grasslands, Temperate Forests, Tropical Rainforests, Deserts, Oceans, Wetlands, Polar Regions
3. Students will produce a detailed report on one specific habitat.
4. Students will report to the class on their assigned habitat.
A graphic organizer of your choosing with the word habitat on top (space for a definition to be filled in) and the seven habitats listed above with space for notes on each.
1. Begin by having the word HABITAT written in large letters on the board. Ask students what a habitat is. Create a web on the board with reasonable answers. They will probably include names of specific habitats. After a few minutes, hand out the graphic organizer and have students copy a definition of habitat at the top. This should include that it’s a large geographical area where certain plants and animals live. These animals are adapted physically and behaviorally to the environment. Climate plays a huge role in the determination of habitats. You might want to introduce the word biome to older students.
2. Next, go over each of the seven habitats listed on the graphic organizer and fill in a small amount of information for each.
Grasslands: Large, rolling terrains of grasses, herbs, and flowers. Enough rain to support the grasses. Can have a moist, continental climate, or a subtropical climate. Temps range from negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Temperate Forests: Have four seasons, moderate climate. Three layers: canopy, understory, and forest floor.
Tropical Rain Forests: Found near equator, rainfall of at least 68 inches a year, warm and wet.
Deserts: Can be hot and dry, or cold. Hot & dry: nocturnal animals that burrow to stay cool, few plants. Cold desert: cold all year, snow in winter, animals that burrow to avoid freezing. Only mosses and few grasses grow.
Oceans: Largest biome, covers 70% of earth, very different characteristics depending on which part of the world. Water always moving. Two tide changes a day.
Wetlands: Areas of standing water that support aquatic plants. Many different species. Can be freshwater or saltwater. Three types of wetlands: marshes, bogs, swamps.
Polar Regions: Arctic and Antarctica. Cover 20 % of earth. Land is covered by massive areas of ice that are frozen most of the year. In summer, sun never sets. In winter, sun never rises.
3. Now that students have some information on these seven biomes, you can group them or have each student do their own research. Assign one habitat for further research. Students should include in their report a more detailed description of the habitat, including all important characteristics, an example of the habitat in the world. (For example, the Adirondack Mountains in New York are an example of a temperate forest.) They should name a specific plant and a specific animal that lives there, as well as describe them briefly. They should tell whether or not the habitat is in danger, and the reason. If the habitat is in danger, tell one or two ways people can help save the habitat. Try to include something a child can do to help spread awareness. Depending on the time frame, you may have them make a diorama of their habitat.
4. Have students share their reports with the class. Include a question and answer period.
Students will be assessed based on how accurately they followed the directions in completing the report, as well as the content of the report.
When I was teaching third grade I always had my students do a country report in social studies. This lesson can be connected to a project like that. Students can pick a country where one of the animals in their science report lives and they will already have information about the animal, plant life, geographical location, etc.
Most students love this project on habitats. They especially enjoy hands-on activities, such as the diorama. Allowing them to share with the class gives them some experience with public speaking as well. The reports can even be displayed for other classes to enjoy. Students may want to bring in a stuffed animal from their habitat, and picture of a plant.