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Grades 6-8


This lesson is part of a series of lessons which provide students with the opportunity to examine their environment and make decisions about the best way to avoid unnecessary damage to the environment when human progress makes it necessary to occupy land previously unoccupied. In this lesson, students will examine the change in the diversity of animals living in an area before and after development. In order to do this, students will need to have access to an area near their school which is undeveloped. This could be a green belt, an unmoved lot, or a park with areas which are not normally used by large numbers of people. This lesson can be completed in one to two days, with extensions continuing beyond that time.
ITV Series
The Magic School Bus #105: The Magic School Bus Hops Home
Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:
1. describe the characteristics of a habitat.
2. describe the role of predators in a habitat.
3. explain why random samples are used.
4. collect and analyze data from the natural environment.
5. describe the impact of human activity on the diversity of animals in a region.

Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), Grade 8
Science Objectives:
#1: Acquire scientific data and information.
#3: Communicate scientific data and information.
#4: Interpret scientific data and information.
#7: Draw conclusion about the process(es) and outcome(s) of a scientific investigation.
Math Objectives:
#11: Determine solution strategies and analyze or solve problems.
#13: Evaluate the reasonableness of a solution to a problem situation.

NCTM Standards at Grades 5-8
Standard 7: Computation and Estimation
Standard 13: Measurement
Per student:
Per group of 3-4 students:

Pre-Viewing Activities
Lead students in a brainstorming activity in which they list the names of the plants and animals they believe live on the property where their school is located. After this list is completed, have students name the plants and animals they believe live on the undeveloped area you have chosen to study. Encourage students to name plants, large animals, small animals, and insects. Tell students that they will be conducting a survey of the area in order to verify their list. Ask students to explain any differences between the two lists. Lead students to explain the effect of human activity on the kinds, numbers, and sizes of animals in an area.
Focus Viewing
After students have discussed the differences between the two lists, tell them that they will now have an opportunity to study the characteristics of a habitat. Tell students to take notes during the video, including making a list of what an animal or plant needs in a habitat if it is to survive in an area.

Viewing Activities
BEGIN The Magic School Bus video when you see the girl in the video blowing up a small blue inflatable swimming pool and Ms. Frizzle says, "Ah, did Bela need more space in her home Wanda?" PAUSE the video after Ms. Frizzle says, "An animal's habitat is its home." Ask a student to repeat what a habitat is. Have students then record the definition of a habitat in their notes. FAST FORWARD to the point where you see Arnold with Bela by a window. RESUME the video as he asks, "What else do you need?" PAUSE after the young African American boy says, "Maybe she needs more than a duck mug and a bean bag shaped like a frog." Ask students to begin to look for the kinds of things an animal needs in its habitat. FAST FORWARD until you see Ms. Frizzle hop onto the back of a grasshopper and RESUME the video. PAUSE after Ms. Frizzle says, "Food is one of the things an animal needs in its habitat." Ask students to place on their list one characteristic of a good habitat. RESUME the video and PAUSE after Ms. Frizzle says, "This is an excellent opportunity to study the predatory behavior of cats." Ask students to define "predator". If no student can define it, ask a student to look up the word in the dictionary and read it to the class. After students have an understanding of what a predator is, ask them to describe the role of a predator in a habitat. Ask what would happen if there were no predators. Ask what types of animals predators are most likely to kill. [Note: Students should be led to describe predators as a natural part of the environment. They help to control the population of animals. Students should also understand that predators help to get rid of old and sick animals.]
FAST FORWARD until you see the grass parted by the students and Ms. Frizzle, and Arnold says, "We give up Ms. Frizzle. What is the connection?" RESUME. PAUSE the video when Arnold says, "Wanda, Wanda, this place has everything Bella needs: food, space, and quiet water." Ask students to record food and space as characteristics of a good habitat. Then ask students why Bela would need quiet water. [Note: Guide students' discussion to frogs needing quiet water to lay their eggs in.] After students have answered this question, have them write "a place where it can reproduce" on their list of characteristics of a habitat. RESUME the video and PAUSE when Bela jumps off the lily pad. Ask students to explain the role of the heron in Bella's habitat. After students explain that a heron is a predator in Bella's habitat, RESUME the video and PAUSE when Ms. Frizzle says, "Not necessarily, Wanda. Herons might eat Bela, if they could catch her." Ask students to predict what the next important characteristic of a good habitat will be. After several students have had an opportunity to make predictions, RESUME the video and PAUSE when Ms. Frizzle says, "An important part of a habitat is a place to hide." Congratulate students who predicted correctly and have all students record "a good hiding place" as an important part of a habitat. RESUME the video and STOP after Bela and Herman the frog sit on a lily pad, and the frog croaks, "Herman" and jumps into the water. Ask students to describe the role of Herman in Bella's habitat. [Note: Lead students to understand that all animals need other animals like them in order to reproduce.]
After students have finished viewing the video, explain that not only do animals need special characteristics in their habitats, plants also have special needs. Ask student to name some of those special needs. (a place to grow, water, sunlight)
Post-Viewing Activities
After students have viewed the video and taken notes, it is time for them to examine two habitats. Tell them that they are going to find out what is living around their school and in an area unoccupied by humans. Give each students a 10 meter length of string which has been wrapped around a tongue depressor or popsicle stick to prevent tangling. Tell students they will be making a survey of randomly selected areas around the school and in the unoccupied area. Ask why an area is being selected at random. (to avoid having to study the entire area while still getting a good idea of what lives in the areas) Give each student a data table for animals and another for plants and explain the types of data they will be recording. Take the students outside to the school yard. Have each student select an area, lay the string out in a circle, move into the circle, and record what they observe. After all students have finished this survey, have them move to the unoccupied area and repeat the procedure.
Return to the classroom and have students record their results in four large charts, one for plants and one for animals in the school yard, and one for plants and one for animals in the unoccupied area. Have students graph the kinds and sizes of animals found in each area. Show students how to use a field classification guide to help identify different species. Ask students to describe the differences between the two habitats. [Note: Lead students to discuss the characteristics of the habitats which have been changed and how these changes impact the number and sizes of the species living in these areas.] Ask students to explain the role of humans in causing these differences. (Humans change the environment in order to suit their needs. These changes may be destructive for the animals and plants living in these areas.)
Action Plan
Students can go to an area creek to collect the same type of information collected at school and the unoccupied area. The students can then become a part of the Creek Watch Program. Students involved in Creek Watch can then provide information about the general health of a creek, including the quality of the water and the number and variety of organisms living in and around the creek.

Language Arts: Students can write letters or speeches to the School Board or City Council voicing concerns about the changes observed in the habitats studied. Students can research and debate the placement of a business on the unoccupied lot.
Social Studies: Students can elect members of a mock city council who will listen to other students' concerns about the environment. The views of various segments of the community should be represented in the discussion.

1995-1996 National Teacher Training Institute / Austin

Master Teacher: Barbara Taylor

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