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This Place is Going to the Dogs

Bob Berwick
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Grade Level
 5 - 8
Time Alloment
 Five 40-minute class periods


This lesson is all about dogs. Where do they come from? How did they get to be the way they are? How are they classified? In this lesson, students will learn how to develop a classification "tree." They'll learn about different breeds of dogs, and how they are categorized according to their adaptations. Using the NATURE episode "Extraordinary Dogs," students will see how some of these adaptations are put to use in some truly unique ways. Students will employ various Web sites to research specific adaptations of various breeds of dogs, and they'll be able to interview friends and neighbors about their own dogs' special qualities. As a culminating activity, students will create a digital video project dealing with the extraordinary qualities of dogs in their neighborhood.

Major corporate support is provided by Canon U.S.A., Inc. and Ford.

Subject Matter

Science: Classification, Adaptations

Learning Activities

Students will be able to:
  • Make a classification "tree" for their dogs.
  • Recognize adaptations in dogs that enhance specific behaviors.
  • Locate specific countries on a map of the world.
  • Develop a set of questions and use them in a series of interviews.


From the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, the 4th edition of Content Knowledge available on-line at:

Life Sciences
Level III Grade: 6-8
Standard 7
Understands biological evolution and the diversity of life

1. Knows basic ideas related to biological evolution (e.g., diversity of species is developed through gradual processes over many generations; biological adaptations, such as changes in structure, behavior, or physiology, allow some species to enhance their reproductive success and survival in a particular environment)

5. Knows ways in which living things can be classified (e.g., taxonomic groups of plants, animals, and fungi; groups based on the details of organisms' internal and external features; groups based on functions served within an ecosystem such as producers, consumers, and decomposers)

Level III Grade: 6-8
The World in Spatial Terms
Standard 1
Understands the characteristics and uses of maps, globes, and other geographic tools and technologies

Standard 2
Knows the location of places, geographic features, and patterns of the environment

Language Arts
Level III Grade: 6-8
Listening and Speaking
Standard 8
Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

Media Components


NATURE: Episode #1409 "Extraordinary Dogs"

Web sites:

American Kennel Club
This site has detailed information about all breeds of dogs. Students can use it to research the characteristics of the breeds and their country of origin.

For your convenience, pictures of different dog breeds organized by AKC groups can be found at the following web sites:


For the class:

As many pictures of dogs as you can find. An excellent source for pictures is the calendar 365 Dogs 2004 Calendar available from (ISBN #0761129529) for about $10.00, or 2004 Dog Fancy Daily Boxed Calendar available from Barnes & Noble (ISBN: 0768851580) for about $12.00.

For your convenience, pictures of different dog breeds organized by AKC groups can be found at the following web sites: Eight bags of potato chips, selected for differences in observable characteristics (i.e. color, texture, brand name, flavoring, etc.)