Scientists are finding new species every year. While some of them live in remote environments, others have been found in large urban cities! While you can’t travel to faraway lands in the hopes of finding a new species, you can use what you know about plant and animal adaptation to create a new species of your own!
Create an electronic book to introduce your species to the world, sharing its physical adaptations, daily habits (behavioral adaptations), predators, and prey.
There are lots of right ways to explore this topic. You might focus on a specific habitat and brainstorm animals and adaptations for that habitat. You might instead have students individually or collaboratively research a favorite animal and explore its habitat and adaptations. This “create a creature” project is a good culminating assessment of student understanding of animals, habitats, and adaptations and assumes they have already explored these topics.
Begin project work by reading about one of the amazing creatures in Extreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth by Nicola Davies. This book is filled with remarkable information about many animals kids are familiar with. Share additional photos of the animal with your students from education-friendly sites like Pics4Learning.com. Penguins are a perennial favorite with elementary students and images, leveled literature, and information texts abound.
Ask your students to share what they know about other amazing creatures. Help lead students to the realization that a unique physical or behavioral adaptation is what makes the animal interesting. To get them talking, ask students to share:
Explain that new plants and animals are still being discovered by scientists and researchers. Share examples of some of newly-discovered species with your students. Live Science has a collection of some great examples for 2013; a search on the Web will turn up many others.
Let students know that they will become animal explorers tasked with a mission to “find” a new species. They will use what they have learned about plant and animal characteristics and adaptations to create a new species and introduce it to the world by creating an electronic book.
Depending on the culture and students in your classroom, students may work individually or in small groups. If you have highly independent learners, let them show off their individuality through personal work. If you have students who must collaborate to come up with ideas, small teams provide many more opportunities to discuss and process learning. Group work also provides additional opportunities for you to identify misconceptions and help the group to focus on key understandings.
If your students have a strong grasp of characteristics, adaptations, and habitats, have students or teams begin by describing the habitat in which their new animal will live. They should include information about weather, temperature, rainfall, plants, and other animals.
Next, have students think about where their animal will live in this habitat – on the ground, in the air, water, or tree tops, etc. Share graphic organizers like t-charts, 4-squares, clusters, and storyboards to help students organize their ideas.
Ask students to create a creature with adaptations that help it survive in this environment. Encourage them to look to other creatures in similar habitats to identify features and characteristics that would help this creature thrive in its habitat. If they are creative thinkers, they can simply start designing.
If your students are just beginning to understand the idea of adaptations, have them create a creature first by combining body parts from one or more categories of animal types, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and invertebrates.
Tell your students they will be creating ePubs/iBooks to introduce their amazing creatures to the world.
Books should include the features of informational text, including images, labels, photos, captions, and headings. The information students provide should answer questions like:
If your students are ready, give them flexibility to choose the information they will include in their project. If you want to provide direction and structure to the project, you could ask students to create a project that includes pages for:
Have students record their voices as they read the information on each page. (Note that audio for ePub may not work on all Android devices.)
Have students present their creatures to the rest of the class or to a different team. To give the project an additional air of authenticity, bring in local experts to ask questions and evaluate student work. If you do not have a local zoo, veterinarians, park rangers, and even pet enthusiast parents may be willing to help.
Students can publish their books as ePub files and share them using a service like iTunes or Dropbox. Share the ePubs in the school library database, on computers in the library, or in a publically accessible network location where other students can access and download the publications.
If you don’t have ready access to eReaders, you can export the finished work as PDF files for easy sharing. You can also print their work and share it in classroom and school media centers or post the digital files to your classroom web site.
The final ePub and the work during the process will help you evaluate student understanding of animals, habitats, and adaptations.
As individual students or teams begin working on the descriptions of their habitats and animal features, monitor their progress and ask questions. You can also use graphic organizers as tangible check in points.
As students begin illustrating, prompt them with questions about their animals to encourage them to add more details and create accurate illustrations.
The resulting ePub or PDF can serve as an artifact for summative assessment of content and expository, or informative, writing. If their work includes a story detailing the discovery of the creature, you can also evaluate their narrative writing skills.
Be sure to evaluate oral presentations for content accuracy. Students’ ability to answer questions from the audience will help you assess how well they have internalized the concepts of behavioral and physical adaptations.
Nicola Davies. Extreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth. ISBN: 0763641278
Pamela Hickman. Animals in Motion: How Animals Swim, Jump, Slither and Glide. ISBN: 1550745751
CONTENT STANDARD C:
As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop understanding of: The characteristics of organisms, life cycles of organisms, Organisms and environments.
Key Ideas and Details
1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
Craft and Structure
4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
5. Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
6. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
9. Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
Text Type and Purpose
2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
Production and Distribution of Writing
4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Research to Build Present Knowledge
7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Range of Writing
10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Speaking and Listening Theme
Comprehension and Collaboration
2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
3. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Conventions of Standard English
1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking
Knowledge of Language
3. Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
1. Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
2. Communication and Collaboration
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
Ideas for engaging elementary students in science as they explore the curriculum through creative projects.
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