Digging Deeper with Wildlife Habitats

By Eve Pranis

The feature, "Growing Wildlife Habitats," highlight ways in which educators and youngsters can transform schoolyards, backyards, and community locations to deepen their understanding of the world around them. Here are some additional suggestions for sparking learning with wildlife habitats.

* Invite students to create an indoor habitat exhibit. Have them use drawings and magazine and seed catalog clippings to create a display depicting a habitat for butterflies, birds, or other animals.

* Challenge students to think small and discover micro-habitats within a schoolyard wildlife habitat: a rotting log, mud puddle, or anthill, for instance. Ask, What plants and animals can you find? What habitat components are there? Is the temperature different than in the surrounding area?

* Have students find out as much as possible about the creatures they find in their garden or natural habitat (e.g., where they live, what conditions they prefer, what they eat, how they protect themselves). Find out what factors influence the loss of habitats for a given species.

* Once students have learned to identify different types of butterflies or birds, brainstorm why each may have acquired its name (e.g. tiger swallowtail). Invent names for newly spotted birds or butterflies based on observable characteristics.

* Invite students to investigate which flowers butterflies seem to prefer. After carefully observing and comparing favorite butterfly flowers to others in your garden or wildlife meadow -- noticing shapes, nectar location, color, and so on -- have students infer what are the features of a good butterfly nectar plant. Ask, Do other factors, such as wind protection, seem to affect feeding preferences?

* Create an electronic database of the wildlife in your habitat, including common and Latin names, locations, habitats, and so on.

* Explore winter survival strategies (e.g., migration or hibernation) of animals in your schoolyard habitat. Ask, What challenges does each strategy present? What adaptations allow the animal to survive?

* Invite students to create "advertisements" to attract butterflies, birds, and other wildlife to your habitat area. Be sure to highlight features that would compel particular animals to visit your site. (You might also use this activity to assess students' understanding of physical and biological elements of habitats.)

* Create a field guide to your garden or wildlife habitat based on students' observations and research. Include sketches and names of inhabitants, where they would be found, food preferences, seasonal habits, and so on.

* Have students write stories from the standpoint of an animal in their wildlife habitat. Be sure they include references to habitat components that help the animal meet its needs.

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