Students observe animals in their natural habitat and make predictions about changes over
Key Concepts: Needs of living things, habitat, adaptation, how living things move to meet their needs, using senses, recording changes in daily and seasonal cycles.
• Clipboard and pencil (one per student)
• Camera(s) (optional)
• Field guides and/or early non-fiction readers on a variety of local plants and animals (optional)
• Binoculars (optional)
- Find a site outdoors or an observation window to observe animals for 5 to 20 minutes (adjust for your group). A popular choice is near a bird feeder.
- Pass out clipboards and one of the science skills observation sheets to each student, create one of your own, or use plain white paper for freeform drawings and notes.
- Return to the observation site several times (throughout the day, week, month, or year).
- For 3-5 minutes: Ask students to observe and record observations by writing and/or drawing. Prompt them each 1-2 minutes to observe the animal and its surroundings in different ways: Now what can you see? Now what do you hear? Now what can you feel about the space around you?
- For 2-3 minutes: Prompt students each 1-2 minutes to observe different parts of the animal: Look at its mouth or beak. Look at its claws or paws.
- For 3-6 minutes: Ask students to predict. Prompt them each 1-2 minutes to make predictions: Where do you think it will go after we leave? What do you think it will eat in the [Spring, Summer, Winter, Autumn]? What do you expect the animal might do the next time you watch it?
- Model how to use online or printed field guides and non-fiction books as resources to identify unknown species or find facts.
Choose one or several of the questions below.
REFLECTION ON THE ACTIVITY
- What happened when you sat very quietly to observe the animal?
- Was there ever a time when the animal got too close or too far away?
- What do you think was the best spot to see and hear animals? Why?
- What do you think was the worst spot to see and hear animals? Why?
- What do you think was the most interesting animal to watch? Why?
- What animals were missing that you thought you might see?
- Raise your hand if you saw an animal… [eating insects, eating a plant, etc].
- Raise your hand if you saw an animal…[looking for food].
- Raise your hand if you saw an animal…[sleeping, resting, yawning].
- Raise your hand if you saw an animal…[moving fast, running away, jumping].
- Raise your hand if you saw an animal…[moving slow, walking].
- Raise your hand if you heard an animal communicate. Why do you think animals need to communicate with each other? What do you think they might be saying?
CHANGES OVER TIME
- What do you predict would happen if there isn’t enough rain?
- What do you predict would happen if there is flooding?
THE NEEDS OF LIVING THINGS
- What are some examples of how the habitat provides the necessities of life for insects, fish, mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians?
- How do you think the size and shape of their [beak, mouth, claws] helps them survive?
- Which of the animals do you think could help spread seeds from one place to another?
- What can we do to make a habitat for a(n)… [insect, fish, mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian]?
- Common species you might see: house sparrow, black-capped chickadee, European starling, steller’s jay (west), blue jay (central and eastern), gray or black squirrel, red squirrel, raccoon, chipmunk.
- Pair two classes (older and younger) to share in the experience of observation and help capture observations in younger children.
- Observe animals in their habitat before teaching concepts like adaptation, habitat, and biodiversity so they can recall the experience while they learn, giving them a real-world context.
- Observe animals in their habitat after teaching concepts like adaptation, habitat, and biodiversity, so they can watch for adaptations as they observe, take note of different features of a habitat, and appreciate biodiversity.
- Use specific examples, such as Hunting Like a Fox or Top Ten Cool Ways that Animals See in the Dark.
Follow-up: Research an Animal
- Use the My Amazing Animal worksheet as a scaffold to research a local animal.
Earth Rangers. (n.d.). Top Ten Cool Ways that Animals See in the Dark. https://www.earthrangers.com/top-10/top-ten-cool-ways-that-animals-see-in-the-dark/
Earth Rangers. (n.d.). How do plants and animals handle the cold? https://www.earthrangers.com/my-missions/how-do-plants-and-animals-handle-the-cold/
Kracl, C., & Harshbarger, D. (2017). Methods & Strategies: Ask the Right Question. Science and Children. 54(9), 78-82.
Margulis, S, Reiser, B., Dombeck, R., Go, V., Kyra, E. & Golan, R. (2001). Behavior Matters: Involving Students in Scientific Investigations of Animal Behavior. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research on Science Teaching. academia.edu