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Lesson Plans
Pika Chew
Camouflage: One Way in which Pikas Avoid Being Caught and Eaten

Tom Trocco
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Grade Level
Time Alloment
 Four 40-minute meetings


This lab activity involves students in an exploration of pikas, followed by a simulation in which they act as eagles hunting for pikas. There are nineteen species of pikas – small, diurnal, colonial, mountain-dwelling, stocky relatives of rabbits and hares – found in Asia and North America. A video clip of pikas first engages students, who then work in teams to research pikas and find out more about their behavior and ecology. In the hands-on activity, students will toss straws representing pikas onto either the grass or the pavement, representing two possible pika habitats (grassy and rocky). They will then pick up as many as they can with salad tongs, representing an eagle's talons. Students will then graph survival data over five generations from the two habitats and discuss the effectiveness of camouflage. The lesson will close with students brainstorming extension activities.

Learning Activities

Students will be able to:

  • Work in collaborative teams with specific roles
  • Use the Internet to research the behavior and ecology of pikas
  • Make predictions about survival rates of pikas in different habitats
  • Collect, organize, graph, and analyze survival data
  • Design extensions to the activity


National Science Education Standards 5-8, National Research Council, 1996

Standard A
Develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry and understandings about scientific inquiry

Standard C
Develop an understanding of regulation and behavior, populations and ecosystems, and diversity and adaptations of organisms.

New York City Middle School English-Language Arts Standards

Standard E1c. Reading
Read and comprehend informational materials.

Standard E3b. Speaking and Listening
Participate in group meetings.

New York City Middle School Mathematics Standards

Standard M4a. Statistics and Probability Concepts
Organize and display data.

National Educational Technology Standards for Students

Standard 5. Technology Research Tools
Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources; students use technology tools to process data and report results.

Media Components


World of Nature #15, Pikas: Ice Age Survivor

Reading Rainbow #76, Opt: An Illusionary Tale

Web Sites:

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Notebook Series: Pikas

Excellent description of pikas. Includes general description, life history, food habits and behavior, as well as predators and parasites.

National Wildlife Federation: The Little Pika

A day in the life of Rocky, a pika farmer. Written for elementary school children as a story but contains good information on pikas in context. This could serve as a good model if you have your students write their own stories.

The Canadian Museum of Nature Online: Pika

Short description of the pika with a nice sketch of one.


Per group of three students:

  • 20 clear drinking straws
  • 1 pair of inexpensive plastic claw-grip salad tongs
  • Pika Rocky Environment for one half of the teams (pavement or a rocky area)
  • Pika Grassy Environment for the other half of the teams (a grassy area)
  • 1 set of three Cooperative Role Cards
  • Pika Spreadsheet (either Excel or AppleWorks. See Preparation for Teachers) or graph paper
Per student:
  • Pika Data Table
  • Pika Population Growth Table