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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.
The Magic School Bus #105: The Magic School Bus Hops Home
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
Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), Grade 8
#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
#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 group of 3-4 students:
- 10 meter length of string
- tongue depressor or popsicle stick
- metric ruler
- hand lens
- field classification guide
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.
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.
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)
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.)
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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worksheet associated with this lesson.
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