Activities and Lesson Plans
Weird, Wacky and Wild
Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine, February 2009
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Suggested Topics: adapting to an environment, habitats, diversity, human impacts, understanding, tolerance and communication.
Related 4th Grade TEKS: Language Arts: 4.13 A,B,C,E,G: Reading, Inquiry, Research : Inquires and Conducts Research Using a Variety of Sources 4.1 A,B,C: Listening, Speaking, Purposes : Listens Actively and Purposefully in a Variety of Settings 4.15 A,C: Writing, Purposes : Writes for Variety of Audiences and Purposes in Various Forms 4.18 A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H: Writing, Grammar, Usage : Applies Grammar and Usage to Communicate Clearly and Effectively in Writing 4.1 A,B,C: Listening, Speaking, Purposes : Listens Actively and Purposefully in a Variety of Settings 4.21 A,B,C,D: Writing, Inquiry, Research : Uses Writing as a Tool for Learning and Research 4.5 A,B,D,F: Listening, Speaking, Audiences : Speaks Clearly and Appropriately to Different Audiences for Different Purposes and Occasions 4.9 B,C,E: Reading, Vocabulary Development : Aquires Extensive Vocabulary through Reading and Systematic Word Study Science: 4.1 A,B: Scientific Processes : Conducts Field and Laboratory Investigations 4.2 A,B,C,D: Scientific Processes : Develops Abilities to do Scientific Inquiry in Field and Laboratory
- Name three interesting facts you learned about Texas animals after reading Weird, Wacky and Wild.
- Pick out an animal adaptation and describe the how the adaptation is helpful to that species.
- Using your imagination, what adaptation would you like to have yourself? Why?
- Nature is a mix of all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors and functions. Everything has a place. Does this apply to people? How about your class, your friends or your family? How does having different abilities help the family or group?
- Let students explore outdoors. Look for some of the "extremes" listed in Keep Texas Wild and have students add their own ideas. Through writing or drawing, have them describe some of the "mosts" about the plants and wildlife that they find. For more variety, use the lists of species from the Learn About Texas pages. Sharpen their observation skills by instructing them to look high, low, under, etc. and to use all their senses.
- Have students read the online page Careers: Wildlife Photography to learn how Greg Lasley got those wonderful pictures of the nymph emerging as a dragonfly. Talk about careers.
- List characteristics of Texas environments such as desert, woodlands, prairies and coasts. What adaptations would best suit these environments? Cut out pictures of wildlife from old TPW magazines. Sort animal pictures under the habitats where they belong. Look for adaptations that would help their survival in that habitat.
- Play the Animal Olympics. Have students add their own games using animals from your part of Texas.
- Create The Web of Life. Assigning roles and using a ball of yarn or string, students create a web by identifying relationships between each other.
- Try a vocabulary challenge! Sometimes it's fun to explore new and challenging words. Using the vocabulary list, assign each student a different vocabulary word to learn and describe to the class through words, drawings or pictures.
- For advanced language arts or more mature readers, try discussing all or parts of this quote from Aldo Leopold. You may need to pick out particular sentences depending on your students' skills. Aldo Leopold is considered the father of today's wildlife management. He was prominent in the 1930s - 1940s. Author of several outstanding books, he is most known for A Sand County Almanac. Leopold is widely quoted by wildlife ecologists for his insight in "systems" thinking.
Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. By land is meant all of the things on, over, or in the earth. Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend; you cannot cherish his right hand and chop off his left. That is to say, you cannot love game and hate predators; you cannot conserve the waters and waste the ranges; you cannot build the forest and mine the farm. The land is one organism. Its parts, like our own parts, compete with each other and co-operate with each other. The competitions are as much a part of the inner workings as the co-operations. You can regulate them, cautiously, but not abolish them.
The outstanding scientific discovery of the twentieth century is not television, or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know the most about it can appreciate how little we know about it. The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.
Additional Resources for Teachers
- Adaptations lesson plan: www.sciencenetlinks.com/lessons.cfm?Grade=3-5&BenchmarkID=5&DocID=232 Alligators are the largest reptiles in North America
- Biodiversity online games and lessons from the American Museum of Natural History: www.amnh.org/ology/index.php?channel=biodiversity
- PBS Kids has an animated cartoon explaining the importance of all species and goes over some core concepts: Endangered species and the importance of all species http://pbskids.org/eekoworld/index.html?load=plants_animals
- Exploring biodiversity and world biomes: http://pbskids.org/eekoworld/parentsteachers/lessons4_2.html
- Looking for animal tracks. Instructions for conducting a field investigation to discover local animals by the tracks they leave over night: http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=2288
- Discover with Darwin & adaptation: http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/explorations/adaptation/
- Fun online game to build monster bugs and match body parts "Find My Legs." Opportunity to discuss why certain body parts go together well: www.scholastic.com/magicschoolbus/games/bugs/spider.htm