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Revised August 21, 2012

Unit Goals

In kindergarten the students were first introduced to all the fascinating things there are to explore in nature with their senses. This year they learn that nature isn't just a random occurrence of living and non-living things but that plants and animals have certain habitats where they like to live and features to help them find all that they need to survive.

This unit is specifically designed to address appropriate AAAS Project 2061 benchmarks as well as first grade Minnesota Academic proposed Science Standards;;; Please email us for more information.

Summary Box

Before your visit, please review with your students:

  • Last year's visits to River Bend, focusing on sensory exploration (Senses page).
  • Habitat as a place where a plant or animal can find all that it needs to survive.
  • The difference between a home and a habitat.
  • Adaptations are features that allow animals and plants to survive in their habitat.
  • Some signs that indicate animals' presence in a habitat.
  • Some of the different habitats at River Bend.
  • Behavior expectations during the visit.

At River Bend:

  • During the introduction we will review the above material.
  • We will divide each class in half (maximum of 4 groups; assuming normal size classes, classes of less than 15 might not be divided)
  • Each group will proceed onto the trails and off the trails where each group will explore the woods and prairie to discover signs of animals, what those animals might be, and why they live in those habitats.
  • We will encourage understanding that the signs represent animals finding food, water, shelter and space.
  • Students will take digital photos to "record" signs of animals using their habitat.
  • To encourage discovery and interest, students will be given significant freedom to free-explore, as conditions and behaviors permit, under the guidance of a naturalist.

In closing we will:

  • Inquire about discoveries on the trail
  • Review a specific animal and its adaptations to a habitat. A student will be "dressed" with representations of the adaptations a beaver needs.
  • Remind the students of their next visit
  • Talk of upcoming events at River Bend
  • Invite the students to return on their own with family and friends.

Back in the classroom:

  • Review the digital photo CD of the week's "records" with the students. Perhaps print them out and make a poster for food, water, shelter, and space.
  • Encourage the students to share their experiences and new understanding of habitats through words or art.
  • Encourage the students to explore their own neighborhoods and school yards for animal signs.


Homes & Habitats

Homes & Habitats

What is a habitat?

A habitat is more than just a home. It is that certain area where an animal prefers to live and can find everything that it needs.

What do animals need in their habitat to survive?

The needs of every animal are unique, however, every animal has four basic requirements to live.

  • Food: All creatures need to eat plants or other animals for food
  • Water: Some may not drink from visible water, but get water in their food
  • Shelter: The actual home where an animal most often rests, avoids harsh weather, and/or raises young.
  • Space: Needs to be in an suitable arrangement, not too many of some things or not enough of others.

(Note that "air" is sometimes mentioned but isn't one of the "official four" as it is considered omnipresent and can cause confusion when discussing underwater and underground habitats.)

How is a home different from a habitat?

Animal homes are specific places within their habitat where an animal lives such as a den, nest, or burrow. Not all animals use a true home during every time of the year, but would still need appropriate shelter against harsh weather. For example, birds use nests just to raise young, not for year-around shelter, and bison use the rest of the herd for shelter and never actually "build" a home.

What are some of the habitats at River Bend?

  • Woods: both young and old
  • Prairie
  • Pond, river, marsh, stream, etc. (spring follow-up unit)
  • Underground tunnels and caverns

What are some signs we can find that tell us an animal is living in a habitat?

  • Homes: Dens, burrows, hollow logs, galls, nests, etc.
  • Tracks and trails: Found in mud, sand, or snow
  • Feeding signs: Chew marks on plants, animals remains
  • Sounds: Bird songs, animals running away or sounding alarm
  • Body parts: Feathers, fur, antlers, shells, skins, etc.
  • Droppings: Scat can tell the type of animals and what it has eaten.

What is an Adaptation?

An adaptation is a special feature of an animal (or plant) that helps it to survive in their habitat. For example, owls have wings and hollow bones for flying, colors for camouflage, beaks and claws for eating mice, special feathers for stealth, and excellent eyes and ears for finding prey. An adaptation can also be something an animal does (behavioral adaptation) such as a rabbit not moving (freezing) to make it harder for a predator to find it.

What will we see at River Bend?

You never know what you'll find when you go exploring at River Bend. We'll be looking for evidence that animals are finding food, water and shelter in our forest and wetlands. While here, your class will take pictures of what you find to use later, but here are some photos to get you started!

  • Berries for food Berries for food
  • Plants and seeds for food Plants and seeds for food
  • Nuts for food Nuts for food
  • More nuts for food More nuts for food
  • Acorns growing for more food Acorns growing for more food
  • Holes in trees are shelter Holes in trees are shelter
  • And holes in the ground are shelter And holes in the ground are shelter
  • More shelter in holes in trees More shelter in holes in trees
  • Hollow logs are great for shelter Hollow logs are great for shelter
  • Even lawns have holes for shelter Even lawns have holes for shelter
  • Puddles have water Puddles have water
  • There are trails through the forest There are trails through the forest
  • And trails through the grass And trails through the grass
  • Animals leave tracks ... Animals leave tracks ...
  • scat ... scat ...
  • and build nests and build nests

What do we need to remember when we visit River Bend?

  1. The quieter you are, the more animals you'll see or hear.
  2. Wear a name tag so we can get to know you better.
  3. Listen to your leader or whomever's turn it is to talk.
  4. Raise your hand if you have something to say.
  5. Leave things growing unless your leader says you can pick something.
  6. Stay with your group.
  7. Nature needs all that is here. What lives here, grows here, dies here, stays here.
  8. Be nice to nature - and to each other!

Some suggested pre- or post-visit activities

Send us your ideas here!
  • Introduce the key concepts by showing pictures like those above to your students on your classroom monitor. Ask questions about the pictures.
  • There are many, many good animal books that showcase how they live in their habitats. Ask you school librarian for help.
  • Let the students bring in stuffed animals (realistic or not!) and have the kids describe their various adaptations for a habitat.
  • Have the students create new imaginary creatures with drawings or other forms of art, showing special "adaptations" to live in a habitat. Encourage creativity no matter how the critter turns out, and have the student give it a descriptive name.
  • Search the school yard for animal homes.
  • Allow the students to Create a Big Woods or Prairie mural, first make the habitat, then add animals where they might live.
  • Have students complete selected optional worksheets from download packet.
    Download extended information and optional worksheet packet.

Interesting links

Send us your ideas here!

  • Want more pictures? eNature has some great photos of animals and plants in North America. Just type in the animal or plant name in the search section. Click on the picture and then click on the picture again to obtain a large enough size. Here's the link to that site:
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