Learning About Animal Life: Fun Activities for Elementary Students
Here are some activities broken down by specific outcomes that are part of most Animal units in the elementary grades. Students deserve the kinds of richly engaging learning experiences that well-designed inquiry instruction can bring them.
1. Student Objectives - Animal Habitats
- Learn and understand the term “habitat.”
- Discover that habitats are unique to certain regions and animal groups
- Identify animals that live in different environments i.e, rain forests, grasslands
After exposure to various text and multimedia (videos / powerpoints / pictures) of animals living in different habitats, students can do many culminating and fun activities:
Make their own Habitat:
Students can be grouped by habitat. Using everyday materials (boxes, string, leaves, etc) students can recreate their assigned habitat. They can make animals out of foil, plastic, clay or other materials, and integrate their animals in this habitat. They can be small re-creations in a shoebox or a large one on wood table or large box. An addition to this activity is to have students “dress up” as their animal. This would be an excellent opportunity for parents to visit your classroom for these presentations.
2. Student Objectives – Animal Adaptations
The students should be able to:
- Compare the physical characteristics of animals, and explain how the animals are adapted to a certain environment;
- Explain how an animal’s behavioral adaptations help it live in its specific habitat;
- Distinguish between physical and behavioral adaptations of animals and how they help them survive
- Design and construct a model of a habitat for an animal with a specific adaptation.
Make Animal Habitat with Specific Adaptation in Mind:
Students can again be grouped by habitat. This is a variation of activity done for habitats. In designing their habitat, however, they should focus on adaptation used in this habitat to help one particular animal survive. One of the simplest to use would be camouflage which is easier for children to recreate and understand. They can also discuss what other adaptations these animals may use in this habitat. This would allow students after recreating the habitat to produce a joint writing piece.
3. Animal Camouflage Writing Piece (with Partners)
Children will understand that
- The color and/or pattern of an animal allows it to either blend in or stand out from its environment. This helps the animal hunt for food and escape its predators.
- When it blends into its background it is called camouflage. For example, many animals that live in snowy areas are white, like the polar bear.
- A chameleon can even change its color to blend in with its environment.
Activities suggested: Take a look at some animal photos, where animals are either camouflaged OR stand out from their surroundings (Students can create a writing piece explaining picture and camouflage) OR Make a cardboard cutout of an animal and color it with markings so that it camouflages into the color of your room. Partners can team up with animals that camouflage in same habitat or display a specific predator and a prey.
Assessments for the Unit
Write a Research Report on their Animal (Can be the Same Animal from the Habitat Project):
Children are fascinated by all animals and will want to learn as much as possible about animals and their lives. Using nonfiction, students can be encouraged to learn more about favorite animals and to document their findings with graphic organizers. They can list things they want to know about animals on a chart. They should write their question list, and then research the animal using different graphic organizers.
This culmination can change for different grade levels in amount of questions students try to answer as well as with the difficulty of the graphic organizer. Graphic organizers can be as simple as a circle map for basic ideas and become as difficult as a Multi-Flow Map showing cause and effect.
After several sessions of research, students should revisit their original questions and begin writing with the information they have gathered. Finally, students revise and edit their work and prepare to present their findings to an authentic audience. This can be done to their class peers or with a parent publishing party.
Comparing Fiction and Non-Fiction Text on Animals:
Students can work with partners to compare a fiction text and non-fiction text on similar animal. For example, Frog and Toad book compared to a non-fiction text on Frogs and Toads. Younger students can do a graphic organizer, such as a simple Venn Diagram while older students can put together a small skit being the fiction character they read about and giving their character the real animal’s traits. This can lead to drawing projects as well as extensive writing comparing non-fiction and fiction text features.
Culminating Performance Task after 4 week Animal Unit.
Students can show how an animal lives in a community made of interdependent populations. The task would be broken down as follows:
ROLE: You are an animal in a specific habitat, with a specific position on the food chain
AUDIENCE: The other “animals” in your habitat as well as in the other habitats and food chains
1. Be your animal. Dress as your animal. Show your behavioral and physical adaptations in your habitat as an individual animal within your population. You can add to your costume or make drawings to present.
2. Be your animal in your habitat along with three other animals within your food chain.
PRODUCT: Habitat mural created by “all animals” sharing the same habitat to be used as a “backdrop” for individual and group skits.
A variation of this is to create a “food web” using yarn or rope putting these animals together and using same “backdrop” (habitat)
Take a look at some animal photos, which animals are camouflaged and which stand out from their surroundings (Students can create a writing piece explaining picture and camouflage) OR Make a cardboard cutout of an animal and color it with markings so that its camouflage is able to blend into the color of your room.
The list of activities on animals can be endless. Children continue to have a peaked curiosity about animals and will enjoy many years of diversified animal learning scaffolded throughout their elementary years.