With April designated as World Habitat Awareness Month, the time is right to lead your learners on a journey of discovery related to this topic. In classrooms from kindergarten to high school, learners explore and evaluate how a habitat affects the behavior of an animal or human. Through research and critical analysis activities, they can begin to get a better understanding of the world and the habitat-related challenges that we face.
Take a Look at a Globe
Take a moment to review with your students what they know about geography. Before beginning a discussion on habitats, it’s a good idea to give your class a sense of location. If they are learning about the Native American tribes that lived throughout the United States in the 1800’s, then have them identify the states you are going to discuss. If you are exposing them to the challenges faced by gorillas or tigers, then show them where the animals live in Africa and Asia. The idea is to help your class get their bearings before you launch a discussion involving places around the world. You could also have your class do Google Earth activities in which they locate specific countries, continents, or states.
What About the Animals
Your class will love learning about animals, no matter how old they are. Those in the younger grades might pick an animal, do research, write a short essay, and create a simple diorama. Provide directions on what you expect them to highlight in the report, and also give them the grading guidelines. They will enjoy creating a habitat with flora, fauna, and wildlife. In addition, they could design a map describing where their animal lives, make a list of challenges this animal faces, or design a poem or song describing what they learned about their animal.
Older students can explore animal habitats in a whole different way. They should focus on an animal, do research on it, and be prepared to write a report. After watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I became fascinated with chimpanzees. On a companion disc offered with this movie, there is a wealth of information about the challenges this animal faces due to habitat destruction. The political and social climate of the countries in which these animals are found affects their survival. This would be a wonderful way for individuals, or a class, to explore how politics can be directly responsible for habitat loss.
Humans and Their Habitats
There are a variety of ways for learners to discuss human habitats. One way is to have your class focus on a particular area and evaluate the challenges and threats the animals, plants, and people face due to climate change, political issues, or habitat loss. You could focus on the Amazon area, or a national park like Yellowstone, or the Petrified Forest. Say you were to focus on Yellowstone. This park is an example of an area that is protected, but in which scientists have spent a great deal of effort to figure out the best means for preserving the area the way it should be. The political and social issues involved can be staggering. For example, wolves in Yellowstone are a contentious issue. There are those who fear them, as a threat to livestock, and those who applaud their success story. Once learners have explored an issue, they can write a letter to a politician expressing their view, launch a campaign to save their animal (using a social media platform), or create presentations to educate others about the issue.
Make a Habitat Lesson Meaningful
When teaching your class about habitats, the key is to take a lesson beyond the normal day to day research and regurgitate. This type of topic should force learners to think deeply about an issue, evaluate it from many perspectives, and come up with their own hypothesis about what should be done. In this way, you create a class ready to become active participants in the future.
Challenge your learners with this lesson on habitats. By designing their own habitat, and evaluating the impact it has on the environment, they can gain a better understanding of the interaction between these forces. This is a great way to give them a hands on experience.
Motivate your learners with a WebQuest relating to animal habitats. Use this lesson as a way to help them learn the characteristics of the desert, tundra, rainforest, forest, and ocean. They can then go on to identify where particular animals would live.
Have your class design a habitat in their backyard, school playground, or even on a balcony. Learners create a habitat providing for the four basic elements, food, water, and shelter. They will love this activity.
What a terrific lesson! Learner create an underwater habitat designed to house scientists while they do oceanographic research. It is an engineering lesson with all the elements designed to provide a motivating and enriching experience.