Habitats for animals – an inquiry

Curriculum overview

The Australian Curriculum: Geography content descriptions addressed in the illustration are:

  • The types of natural vegetation and the significance of vegetation to the environment and to people (ACHGK021)
  • The importance of environments to animals and people, and different views on how they can be protected (ACHGK022)

 Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Learning goals

The illustration-specific learning goals are:

  • understanding of the idea of habitat
  • understanding of the interconnections between animals and their food in a habitat
  • developing an appreciation of our responsibility to protect environments that provide habitats for animals
  • recognising the role of vegetation in providing habitats for animals.

Geographical understanding and context

The concept of habitat as a specific kind of environment is an important idea in geography. Linked with this are the two concepts of sustainability and interconnection. Within each habitat there are both simple and complex interconnections between animals, plants, climate and soils. Although habitats are always in a process of some kind of change they tend towards a state of equilibrium or natural sustainability until there is outside influence, usually from humans.

These geographical concepts of environment and habitat, interconnection and sustainability are all developed in this illustration.

Teaching approaches

1. Favourite wild animals discussion


An introduction suitable for children of this age is a discussion of their favourite wild animals. This will probably lead to a mention of lions, tigers, chimpanzee, gorillas, giraffe, elephants, kangaroos and other animals.

Questions could be posed about the places where each of these animals live. Countries, continents, regions and particular habitats might all be mentioned.

2. Habitat research

The discussion could develop into the idea of the habitat for each animal. The following habitats could be described and perhaps illustrated with photographs:

  • desert
  • rainforest (jungle)
  • savanna grassland
  • tundra, icesheets and snow
  • mountains
  • wetlands.

Ask the children to find out which animals inhabit each of these habitats so that a list of groupings is developed (see the 'Resources' section below for some suitable references).

3. Vegetation research

The next step of the inquiry is to discover information about the vegetation which grows in each habitat and the food that particular animals eat. This task could be split up so that each child finds out the food for an animal that interests them. 

The links between animals and their food sources could be shown through the children's drawings. Each child might do a labelled drawing of an animal, the vegetation of its habitat, and the food that it eats. In this way the different habitats will have been described at each child's level of concrete or abstract understanding.

4. Habitat pattern analysis

The next step to link this information to world geography is for each of the habitats to be located on a world map. The map could be a large outline map on which the drawings of animals in their habitats are pasted. Alternatively, it could be a smaller outline map of the world where each student adds information.

Next, look at each habitat and explore the reasons why that habitat is found in that location.

5. Communication of research information

After doing these activities each child will have maps, sketches, diagrams and factual information. This could be presented in a display, a booklet or as part of an oral presentation. The central point of learning that needs to be obvious in this is an understanding of the interconnections between animals and their habitats, and that habitats need to remain sustainable for the animals' existence not to be threatened. 

6. Extension activities

Children often respond emotionally to the idea of animals in danger of extinction, and this could prompt further inquiry about which animals fall into this category. The next logical question is 'Why are they in danger?' From there, the issue of the habitat being in danger because of human influence could be investigated.

The concept of sustainability could be examined in more depth by relating animals, vegetation and climate to each other. This is a more abstract concept.

What you need

World map.

Some photographs of the listed habitats.

Time frame: Could be spread over a few weeks if students get involved and interested in following further lines of inquiry.

Curriculum connections

This illustration links with the content descriptions of the following Phase 1 Australian Curriculum. 

English

  • Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations incorporating learned content and taking into account the particular purposes and audiences (ACELY1689)
  • Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning to expand content knowledge, integrating and linking ideas and analysing and evaluating texts (ACELY1692)
  • Incorporate new vocabulary from a range of sources into students' own texts including vocabulary encountered in research (ACELA1498)

Mathematics

  • Use simple scales, legends and directions to interpret information contained in basic maps (ACMMG090)

Science 

  • Living things have life cycles (ACSSU072)
  • Living things, including plants and animals, depend on each other and the environment to survive (ACSSU073)
  • Earth's surface changes over time as a result of natural processes and human activity (ACSSU075)

History

  • Locate relevant information from sources provided (ACHHS084)

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). 

Resources

Books:

Johnson, J. (2012). Animal Planet: Atlas of Animals. Sydney: Weldon Owen. An excellently produced and comprehensive atlas of animals and habitats. It has sections on the habitats of each continent which are displayed in colourful double page spreads.

Websites: 

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2013). Australian Curriculum: Geography. Retrieved May 2013, from: www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Geography/Rationale.

National Geographic Education. GIS in action. Students are able to us GIS to save animals. Retrieved August 2012, from: http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/multimedia/interactive/maps-tools-gis-action/?ar_a=4.

Australian Museum. Nature, culture, discover focuses on Australian habitats. Retrieved August 2012, from: http://australianmuseum.net.au/Wild-Kids-Habitats/.

National Geographic. Kids dare to explore! Search for your favourite animal or any habitat. Retrieved August 2012, from: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/animals/creaturefeature/.

All other required resources are listed in the 'What you need' section above.