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Lesson Plans
Change or Adaptation:
How Do Plants and Animals Survive Extreme Environments?

This lesson is written by Master Teacher Hector Lino.
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Grade Level
Time Alloment
 Three 90-minute blocks


Students will learn about the role adaptation plays in life by observing its nature in botany and ornithology. In each of these areas, students will witness life forms adapt and therefore survive through the use of video and Internet activities. Once this theme has been isolated and analyzed, students will be able to recognize and identify adaptive features in plants and birds. Students will then employ their new consciousness of the adaptive nature of life by writing an essay that discusses the adaptive quality of a plant or an animal that lives in an extreme environment.

Learning Activities

Students will be able to:

  • Identify the adaptive forces in the life cycle of plants, animals, and humans
  • Isolate and identify the role that change and adaptation play in extreme environments
  • Research and write a short term paper using MLA citations
  • Examine change and adaptation as a theme in nature
  • Identify structural modifications in plant and animal life that help flora and fauna exist in environments like deserts and glaciers


New York Learning Standards

ELA Standard 3: Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation
Students will listen, speak, read, and write for critical analysis and evaluation. As listeners and readers, students will analyze experiences, ideas, information, and issues presented by others using a variety of established criteria. As speakers and writers, they will use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language to present, from a variety of perspectives, their opinions and judgements on experiences, ideas, information and issues.

Math, Science, and Technology Standard 6:
Students will understand the relationships and common themes that connect mathematics, science, and technology and apply the themes to these and other areas of learning.

National Science Education Standards

Science Content Standards: 9-12
Science as Inquiry: Content Standard A
As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry and understanding about scientific inquiry.

Life Science: Content Standard C
As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of the cell, molecular basis of heredity, biological evolution, interdependence of organisms, matter, energy, and organization in living systems, and behavior of organisms.

Media Components

Passport to Antarctica Episode #4; "At Home in the Ice"

The American Desert: Episode #3

Web Sites:

What Is a Cactus?
This site provides information about the defining characteristics of cacti.

Desert Plants and Wildflowers
In the center column you will find links to pages of information on various cactus plants indigenous to the United States, including the barrel cactus, cholla cactus, and saguaro cactus.

Davis Station Webcam, Antarctica
Students can see Antarctica via a live Webcam and also gather lots of data about weather, climate, and atmospheric conditions in Antarctica.

Casey Station Webcam, Antarctica
This site provides footage of wildlife activity at Casey Station.

Macquarie Island Station Webcam, Antarctica
This site is a Webcam at Macquarie Island Station in Antarctica

Penguin Adaptation Facts
This Web site gives information about biological adaptations that allow penguins to thrive in the Antarctic climate.

Learning about Penguin Species

Sea World Penguin Research Page
This site has all kinds of information about penguins and the research conducted at Sea World. A resource bibliography and lists of books for young readers are also available here.

Emperor Penguin Penguin
This area focuses specifically on emperor penguins and interesting facts about that species.


Per class:

  • 30-40 3" x 5" index cards
  • 1 copy of the Laboratory Pratical Set-up Guide(see Student Materials)

    Per student:
  • Cactus Inquiry Diary
  • Penguin Fact Quest

    Per Group of 3 Students
  • Miscellaneous art supplies (paper, markers, scissors, crayons, etc...)