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.
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
Develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry and understandings
about scientific inquiry
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
World of Nature #15, Pikas: Ice Age Survivor
Reading Rainbow #76, Opt: An Illusionary Tale
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.
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
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
- Pika Grassy Environment for the other half of the teams (a grassy
- 1 set of three Cooperative Role Cards
- Pika Spreadsheet (either Excel or AppleWorks. See Preparation for
Teachers) or graph paper
- Pika Data Table
- Pika Population Growth Table