The Living Edens
The Sidewinder and the Sidewinder

Instructional Objectives
Background Material
Evaluation/Alternative Assessment
Web Resources

Instructional Objectives:

Students will:

  1. Identify the Sidewinder in The Living Edens "Namib" program
  2. Define the concept of parallelism using the Sidewinder of the desert Southwest and the Sidewinder of the Namib
  3. Draw a picture and include the tracks left by the unusual adaptation of the Sidewinder of the Namib

Background Material:

There are two species of Sidewinder snakes in the Namib, the Namaqua Dwarf Adder and Peringuey's Adder. Both species of Sidewinder are found in the Namib desert. They use a sidewinding motion to move across the hot surface sand and have only a small part of the body on the hot sand at one time. This is also true of the Sidewinder rattlesnake of the desert southwest in the United States. The Sidewinder of Namib is a small snake only about one foot long.

Sidewinders use quick motions to wiggle into the sand to bury the greater part of their body. The head of the Sidewinder is triangular in shape. The Sidewinder will usually only have the eyes and nostrils visible once buried in the sand. The Southwest Desert Sidewinder is a very small snake, usually about two feet long. (Interview with Harry Ward, Associate Curator of Reptiles, Detroit Zoological Society, June, 18, 1997; The Living Edens "Namib," aired July 16, 1997 on PBS)

Parallelism is the concept of two very similar species in very different parts of the world environment. The Sidewinder is a perfect example of parallelism where both species survive in very similar surroundings and behave in very similar ways. There are many examples of parallelism in a number of species around the world. (Interview with Kim Sneden, Director of Education, Detroit Zoological Society, June 16, 1997).

Target Grade Level:

Middle level students, grades 5-9

Materials Needed:

For each student:

  • Colored pencils/markers and drawing paper
  • Field guides for snakes of the United States and/or Africa (optional)
  • Snake templates with color guide downloaded for this activity: Template 1, Template 2
  • Student science journals
  • One large plastic container of wet sand for the evaluation/assessment section of the activity.


  1. The class will view The Living Edens "Namib" program and identify the Sidewinder and its behavior in the Namib desert
  2. Teacher will discuss parallelism and the Sidewinder rattlesnake of the southwest desert
  3. Students will work in groups of 3-4 and each student will:
    1. Record the behavior of the Sidewinder of the Namib in their science journals
    2. Use the Sidewinder templates to draw the outline of the sidewinder: Template 1, Template 2
    3. Color the Sidewinder of Namib to match the colors in the program and place Sidewinder tracks in the drawing
    4. Color the Sidewinder of the desert southwest according to the color key on the Sidewinder template

Evaluation/Alternative Assessment:

Have students display drawings in class. Have a plastic container available with wet sand and have representative students use fingers to draw in the tracks of the Sidewinder. Compare and contrast the Sidewinder of the desert southwest and the Namib Desert. Have groups of students discuss the concept of parallelism of the two species using their science journals in a class discussion.

Elementary Extension:

Teacher should discuss the concept of parallelism and have students do the same activities as listed above less the note taking and entry of information into science journals.

High School Extension:

Have students examine the Living Edens Program: Namib, and identify other examples of parallelism found in different parts of the world. Have students work in groups, identify specific animals and report back to class in group presentations. (An example in Namib is the Ostrich, the Rhea of Patagonia and the Emu of Australia)

Web Resources:

For the Sidewinder of the desert southwest:

click here to return to the Namib home page
Broadcast Info | Purchase Video | Earth, Wind, and Fire | Recalling Namib
Trivia Challenge | 24 Hours in Namib | Teacher's Resources
Related Links | Screen Saver | Credits
click here to go to the PBS home pageclick here to visit the Reader's Digest web site