Assignment Discovery Biomes Definition

  • Students will learn about the adaptations of desert animals through individual research and the classroom activity "Adaptation Jeopardy." Before class begins, create a list of desert animals; the number should equal the number of students in the class. Choose animals from these four categories: mammals, birds and fish, reptiles and amphibians, and insects and spiders. Examples include geckos, roadrunners, ravens, turkey vultures, Gila monsters, camels, and iguanas. For more animals, visit these Web sites:

  • Hold a class discussion of desert biomes. Ask students what they know about deserts, in particular what people must do to take care of themselves in the desert. (Answers include drinking extra water and wearing sunblock.) Ask students to name deserts around the world (examples: the Sahara in Africa, the Gobi in Asia, the Sonoran in North America) ; then review their common characteristics:

    • Deserts receive less than 10 inches of rainfall annually.
    • Deserts may receive only a few rainfalls in a year.
    • Deserts are generally very hot in the daytime (often more than 100? F, or about 38? Celsius), but they can be cold at night (50? F, 10? Celsius, or below).
  • Explain that for any animal to survive, it must be adapted physically and behaviorally to its environment. Tell students that physical adaptation refers to characteristics such as fur, eye structure, and color. Behavioral adaptation refers to hunting strategies, breeding patterns, and social habits.

  • Assign one animal from your list to each student. Then hand out three index cards to each student and have students write the names of their desert animals on one side of each card. Explain that the cards will be used in Adaptation Jeopardy, a game about desert animal adaptations.

  • Tell students that they will use print and Internet reference materials to research and identify three adaptations for their animals. On the back of each index card, students should write one adaptation and an explanation of how it helps the animal survive. (Example: "This animal sleeps underground during the day, avoiding the extreme heat.") Explain that these adaptations will be used as clues in the game, so students should not reveal the name of the desert animal on this side of the card. Allow students time to complete their cards. Tell students to hand in their cards by the end of the class period.

  • Collect the cards and distribute copies of the card to each student. Students must write a paragraph about a day in the life of their animals, including adaptations and why the adaptations are necessary to survive in a desert biome. Tell students they will present their paragraphs during the next class period.

  • Invite students to share their paragraphs. Encourage the class to take notes, explaining that they'll be using these facts to play the game. After each presentation, write the name of the animal on the board and review its adaptations. After all the presentations, discuss the differences and similarities among the animals.

  • The next day, label four columns on the board: mammals, birds and fish, reptiles and amphibians, and insects and spiders. Tape one index card from each student in the correct category, with the adaptation details visible.

  • Arrange students into groups of four or five. Explain that groups will take turns trying to name the animal whose adaptation is on the card. Answers should be phrased as questions. (For example, for "This animal has a double set of eyelashes to keep out the sand," the correct answer is "What is a camel?") Award 10 points for each correct answer, keeping score on the board. A group controls the board until it gives an incorrect answer. A student receiving his or her own card must pass and play the next round.

  • biodiversity
    Definition: The number and variety of organisms found within a specified geographic region
    Context: The desert has great biodiversity because thousands of animal species live there.

    Definition: To conceal by disguise or protective coloring
    Context: The vulture did not spot the kangaroo rat, which was camouflaged against the sand.

    Definition: No longer existing
    Context: Some animals have become extinct because they did not adapt to changes in their habitats.

    Definition: The place an animal or plant normally lives
    Context: The gecko can camouflage itself, which helps it survive in its habitat.

    Definition: Active at night
    Context: Many animals are nocturnal so they can avoid daytime heat.

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    The National Academy of Sciencesprovides guidelines for teaching science as well as a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate for students in grades K-12. To view the standards, visit

    This lesson plan addresses the following national standard:

    • Life Science: Populations and ecosystems

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    Discovery School staff (based on lesson plan by Jessi Hempel, Bay Area School Reform Collaborative, former teacher)

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    1.)Introduce the lesson by telling students the following:
    The Birmingham Zoo needs your help! In the last few months, the zoo has become very understaffed and they need students to help them with their re-design of the zoo grounds. The zoo wants to create a display that represents every biome in the world. Students will divide into teams. The teams will take the shortest trip possible (via the Internet) around the world to visit all the biomes in our world and report information back to the zoo to complete the re-design.

    2.)Discovery of the Biomes:
    Without defining biomes, let students go to the computers and ask them to find out what a biome is and then to locate the main 6 land biomes in the world using the site below. Have students record their findings using the Biomes attachment.
    This site list all of the biomes with many details about each one.

    3.)This site has maps featuring the five major biomes and their most important sub-categories.
    (Map: World Biomes)
    Maps and information on biomes.

    4.)This resource, from the Living SchoolBook's CyberZoo, features a chart with information on dozens of zoo animals.
    (The CyberZoo Animal List)
    Chart about biomes.

    5.)Have students open the Biomes Vocab attachment. Let students create a vocabulary booklet containing all new vocabulary that they discover through this trip. Each word should be defined and illustrated.

    6.)Organize students into groups of six. Allow each person in the group to select a different biome. Using the biome organizer (see attached), students should conduct research using the Internet and find all of the necessary information as listed on the organizer. Give students the organizer and review the information they will be looking for, before allowing them to begin. Go over the following before allowing students to begin:
    a) When choosing animals, make sure to think about the food chain.
    b) When deciding on the plants, think about these questions:
    Why are you including these plants?
    Why are they important?
    Bookmark the website below to help students with the research. Also, refer students back to the website in Step 2.
    (Biomes of the World)
    This site provides many details about biomes of the world.

    7.)Once students complete their research, instruct them to begin putting together their presentations. Inform students that their teams must work together to create a slideshow presentation for the zoo. Allow students to use the template attached.

    8.)Once all presentations are completed, allow each team to present its slideshow to the class. The class could invite zoo employees to give feedback about their presentations.

    9.)The teacher may find additional helpful information at the following portal.
    (A Hotlist on Biomes)
    An Internet hotlist on biomes.

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