Canyonlands - America's Wild West Teaching Canyonlands

Survival Rummy

Students will make their own customized deck of cards and play a game of gin rummy in order to learn how animals have adapted to the environment of the Canyonlands.

Grade level: 5-8
Subject areas: Science
Estimated time of completion: 3 hours

Instructional Objectives
Relevant National Standards
Tools and Materials Needed
Teaching Procedure
Assessment Recommendations
Extension Ideas
Web Resources

Instructional Objectives
The students will be able to:

  • identify the adaptations of animals in the Canyonlands

Relevant National Standards
National Science Education Standards

  • The student should develop an understanding of diversity and adaptation of organisms.
  • Biological adaptations include changes in structures, behaviors, or physiology that enhance survival and reproductive success in a particular environment.
  • An organism's behavior evolves through adaptation to its environment.

Tools and Materials Needed
PBS video, "Canyonlands"
Index cards
Paper and pencil
Access to library books about animals and/or access to the Internet

Teaching Procedure
1. Before students watch the video, discuss how all living things have adaptations which enable them to live and survive where they do, even human beings. Talk about how we adapt when we visit different parts of the country or from season to season. You might mention if someone broke a bone, how that person had to adapt. Conclude that all living things have special adaptations to help them survive in their surroundings. Ask the students to watch for how the plants and animals in the "Canyonlands" have adapted to their environment.

2. After watching the video remind the students that the narrator of the video says, "Time has preserved only those who have adapted to their conditions." Ask students to recall all the animals shown in the video, and list them on the board. The list should include: prairie dog (18:05 & 26:33), badger (18:36), killer mouse (19:54, 34:09 & 41:59), honey pot ants (30:07 & 47:09), sphinx moth (33:12), mountain lion (03:33 & 16:33), mule deer (03:44), raven (07:00, 15:26, 24:50 & 37:10), bobcat (11:12), coyote (38:05), rattlesnake (37:50), scorpion (20:14), golden eagle (26:41).

3. Tell the students they are going to produce cards for a card game similar to rummy.

4. Each team will make three duplicate sets of three cards. Each set will have one card with a drawing of the animal and its name, while the other two cards will each have information about that animal, listing adaptations that help it to survive in the Canyonlands. The adaptations might be about what the animal eats and how it gets its food, how it protects itself, its appearance, or its behavior.

5. Teams of two students choose one of the animals or the teacher assigns them.

6. You might then want to show the video again so students can pay close attention to what is said about their particular animal. After watching the video, the students can research additional information about their animals either in books from the library or on the Internet.

7. Students put the pictures and facts on index cards, which will be used like playing cards.

8. Cards are collected and put in three separate decks of 39 cards each. Each deck has each of the animals listed above and that animal's adaptation information.

9. Students get into groups of three or four. The game begins when each person is dealt five cards. The first player may discard an unwanted card and select another card from the remaining deck, which is put in the center of the circle of play. Play continues around the circle with discarded cards being added to the leftover cards in the center facedown and new cards being drawn, until one player gets a book-a complete set of the animal and its adaptations. When a player gets a book he/she says "Survival" and is the winner. The game then continues until all animals and their adaptations are complete to see who comes in second and third.

Assessment Recommendations
Rubric for Cards
0 - did not finish the cards
1 - finished cards; but not all information was accurate
2 - finished cards; information accurate; but not neatly done
3 - finished cards; information accurate and in detail; neatly done

Extension Ideas
Have each team make four sets of two cards-one with the picture of the animal and the other with its adaptations. Add the desert plants to these cards (see Note about Plants below). Then divide the cards into sets to be used to play Concentration. To play Concentration, lay all the cards face down in rows. The first person (or team if you want to play in teams) turns up two cards. If they match, keep the cards and go again. If the cards do not match, turn the cards face down again, and the other person or team tries to get a match. The winner is the person or team with the most matches at the end of the game, when there are no cards facing down.

Note about plants: The plants in the video have three main problems: how to get water, how to conserve water once they have it, and how not to get eaten. Most of the wildflowers shown are annuals. They develop, produce seeds, and die. Next year's plant comes from seeds which are dormant during the dry season. Some plants stay small so they don't need so much water or remain dormant during the summer. Some plants have special leaves that are either waxy or the leaf pores stay closed during the day. Most desert plants have lateral roots, which spread around so they can absorb the rain more easily. Some plants, like cactus, have a water storage system. To prevent getting eaten many plants have spines, a bad taste, waxy leaves, or a strong odor.

Web Resources
Creatures of the Night and You

Night Creatures of the Kalahari

Leopards: The Nocturnal Eye

Leopards: Night Vision

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