Canyonlands - America's Wild West Teaching Canyonlands

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Students research and give a presentation about the adaptations of the nocturnal animals shown in "Canyonlands."

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

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

Adaptations are the special characteristics that enable plants or animals to survive in a particular environment. Animals adapt to abiotic (nonliving) and biotic (living) conditions in their environment. Camouflage is one common example of an adaptation. Animals' teeth (sharp or flat), feet (webbed, claws), bird's beaks (curved, short, long) are other features that have evolved over a long period of time, through the process of natural selection, and help the organism survive in its surroundings. Both plants and animals adapt constantly to changes in their environment.

Instructional Objectives
Students will have the opportunity to:

  • identify the adaptations of nocturnal animals in the Canyonlands
  • make an interesting oral presentation

Relevant National Standards
National Science Education Standards

  • 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.

National Council of Teachers of English/International Reading Association List of Standards for the English Language Arts

  • Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Tools and Materials Needed
PBS video, "Canyonlands"
TV and VCR
Paper and pencil
Tape recorder (optional)
Video camera (optional)
Access to research materials, either library books or the internet

Teaching Procedure
1. 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. Ask the students if they know anyone who works shift work, working from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. What special adaptations do those people have to make? Ask the students, as they watch the video, to look for any animals that are like people who work a late night shift, and are active at night.

2. As students watch the video, have them write a list of all the nocturnal animals shown in the video. Review their lists afterward and make sure all animals are accounted for; list them on the board: 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).

3. Divide students into teams of two, and have each team research information about one animal. Remind the students that the narrator of the video says, "Survival is hard won." Students will research what is special about their animal, looking especially for what enables it to survive in such a harsh environment.

4. It might be appropriate to watch the video again, allowing students to carefully watch their animals. After watching the video, the team researches additional information either in books the school library has or on the Internet about its specific animal (see Web Resources below).

5. Once each team has chosen an animal and gathered the information, instead of just giving an oral report, they are going to role play. One of the students will be an interviewer for a talk show and the other student will be the animal. The team organizes its data into an interesting interview.

6. Students may either record their interviews as if for a radio talk show, or they can do a live interview, like on a TV talk show in front of the class or on a video tape.

Assessment Recommendations
0 - No presentation is attempted.
1 - Students make or write a presentation, but fail to fully describe the animal's adaptations.
2 - Students make or write a presentation. They describe, but not in detail, the adaptations. Evidence of preparation and organization is lacking.
3 - Students make or write a presentation. They describe in some detail the adaptations. The delivery and sentence structure are generally correct. There is some indication of preparation and organization.
4 - Students make or write a presentation. The students elaborate about the adaptations and are creative in their presentation. There is evidence of preparation, organization, and enthusiasm for the topic.

Extension Ideas

  • Another possibility is to write their interviews into a newspaper article. These could be collected into a newspaper and copied for others to read.

Web Resources
Nocturnal Creatures

Night Creatures of the Kalahari

Leopards: The Nocturnal Eye

Leopards: Night Vision

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