A Giraffe Debate
Subject: Language Arts, Science, Social Studies
Grade Level: 4-6
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Specific Software Needed
African Wildlife Foundation: African Wildlife
This selection comes from AWF's Wild Lives Guidebook and includes links to recent
news about giraffes.
Animal Fact Sheets: Reticulated Giraffe
This fact sheet compares the life spans and diets of giraffes in captivity to
those in the wild. It also includes a section about conservation, including reasons
for the giraffes' endangerment.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo: Zoocam
"Zoocam," the world's first live Internet zoo camera, allows students to watch
giraffes in action.
Como Zoo: Reticulated Giraffe
This resource contains general information about the reticulated giraffe subspecies,
including distribution, habitat, diet, behavior, adaptations, and conservation.
Discover how the establishment of this property began with the translocation of
five babies of the highly endangered Rothschild giraffe species.
Kids' Planet: Giraffe -- Defenders of the Wild
This Web site offers a fact sheet about the giraffe, covering physical characteristics,
behavior, predators, and habitat.
The Living Edens: Giraffe
This site provides information on some of the giraffe's unusual adaptations.
NATURE: Animal Attractions -- Nature vs. Nurture
Discover how one zoo's efforts are helping to save endangered species.
Nature-Wildlife: The Photography and Behavior of the Giraffe
This site contains facts about giraffe behavior, including daily activities, their
social/mating system, reproduction, offspring and maternal care, defense against
predators, and communication. An extensive gallery of giraffe photographs is also
Students can use this site to visit a virtual safari and discover all there is
to know about the giraffe.
Wildlife Conservations Society: Rothschild Giraffe
Discover some interesting facts about this giraffe subspecies, including how it
fights off predators.
Students will need the following supplies:
- Computers with Internet access
- Pens, pencils, and other writing tools
- Graphic organizers for collecting and organizing research
- Index cards
Teachers will need the following:
- Television and VCR
- The video of the episode TALL BLONDES from Thirteen's
- Chart paper
(one to two class periods)
1. Write the following phrases and quotation from the Thirteen/WNET
New York program TALL BLONDES on a sheet of chart paper and display in front
of the classroom. DON'T reveal the name of the animal:
- tall blonde
- gentle giant
- super stars of the Savannah
- stained glass coats
- glide across plains
- scrape the clouds
"A family of rare, long-stemmed, spectacled gigantic flowers
slowly advancing." -- Isak Dineson
Direct students' attention to the phrases and quotation
on the chart paper. Ask: Who is this mystery animal? Give the class an opportunity
to guess. If they need help, ask these questions:
- Where does the mystery animal live?
- What does stained glass look like? Which animal's fur might have this type of pattern?
- What can you tell about the height of the mystery animal
from the phrase "scrape the clouds"?
When the answer "giraffe" is revealed, write it at the top
of the chart paper.
2. Invite students to share what they know or think they know
about the giraffe -- what they've read, seen, and heard. Encourage them to think
not just about what the giraffe looks like, but how it behaves, where it lives,
what it eats, etc. To motivate students, display some of the following online
photographs and video of giraffe in the wild and captivity on a large screen if
Create a KWL chart on a second sheet of chart paper. Jot
students' responses in the "Know" or "K" column. Then ask students what they want
to learn about the giraffe. Mark these ideas in the "What I want to Know" or "W"
column. Tell the class that during this lesson they will learn new facts about
the giraffe, which you will add to the "What I Learned" or "L" column.
(one class period)
1. Explain to the class that while the giraffe population
is not in immediate danger, their status in the wild is constantly being threatened.
Instruct students to find out why the populations are dwindling and what is being
done about it by viewing the video report at:
Before watching the video, distribute the "Giraffes
in Danger" organizer, and as students watch, have them answer the questions.
2. After watching the online video clip, encourage students
to identify the problems that the giraffe population is facing. Mark their responses
on the chalkboard under the title "Problem." Then, ask students: "What are
some solutions to the problems giraffes are facing?" Jot down their ideas
on the board under the title "Solutions." Help students recognize that one solution
is to keep giraffes in captivity, either in wildlife sanctuaries or zoos. Point
out, however, that relocating giraffes from the wild compromises their quality
of life. Tell students that by the end of this lesson, they will take a position
and participate in a debate about which is more important: to help giraffes stay
in their natural environments and maintain a good quality of life or to help giraffes
survive by relocating them to parks and zoos.
(three class periods)
1. Tell students that they are going to watch a video entitled
TALL BLONDES from Thirteen's NATURE series. Explain that in the program, they
will meet a variety of subspecies of giraffes living in captivity, including a
wildlife sanctuary, zoos, and a nature park. Before watching the video, prompt
students to think about what a giraffe in captivity needs to survive. Also have
them brainstorm what a giraffe in captivity would need to maintain the same quality
of life it has in the wild. Help students by encouraging them to think about what
a giraffe is like physically, how it behaves, its habitat, how it adapts to its
environment. Create a table with two columns. Title one column "Needs" and mark
down students' responses. Later, students will return to the chart to determine
whether the giraffe populations in the video had their needs met. As students
explain their answers, you will mark their thoughts in the second column, entitled
"How Needs Are Met." The class will watch the video together, but will work in
teams of four students each as they begin their research projects. Prior to watching
the video, students decide which of the giraffe's needs -- physical, behavior,
adaptations, and habitat -- interest them the most. In the teams, each student
will focus on researching one of the four. As they watch the program TALL BLONDES students should take notes on the Giraffe
2. At the end of the video, return
to the Needs table created in step 1. Encourage the students to consider whether
the giraffe has other needs in addition to the ones already listed. Add students'
ideas to the list. Now ask them to describe how the needs they listed are or aren't
being met in each of the habitats discussed in the program, and note these in
the other column.
Now invite the teams to continue their giraffe research,
keeping in mind the giraffe's physical traits, behavior, habitat and adaptations,
by exploring the following Web sites:
Remind teams that as they conduct their research, they are
to keep in mind the problem of whether or not giraffes should be relocated to
zoos or park in order to survive, or whether they will lead a better life staying
in the wild. To help them do this, distribute the Captivity:
Pros & Cons organizer.
3. Allow time for students in each team to share what they
learned with the rest of the team. Circulate around the room, listening to each
team's conversation. Make sure that all students are contributing to the discussion,
and encourage students to listen carefully as their teammates describe the different
giraffe features. After they pool their research, encourage students to think
about how what they learned about the giraffe in terms of its physical features,
behavior, adaptations, and habitat would affect its life in captivity. Use these
questions to get them started:
- How do the giraffe's physical features make living in captivity
easy or difficult?
- Which of the giraffe's adaptations is not needed if a giraffe
lives in a zoo or sanctuary?
- How does living in captivity affect the giraffe's behavior?
- How does taking the giraffe out of the wild affect other
animals that remain in the wild?
(two class periods)
1. Instruct teams to use their research to take a position
either for or against giraffe captivity. Distribute index cards to each team.
Students will write one point on each card defending their position. Invite the
class to have a series of debates in which teams from opposing sides -- for and
against captivity -- defend their position. Teams may use their index cards during
the debate. After each debate, the remaining students will take a vote on which
(two class periods)
1. After each team has participated in a debate, invite students
to reconsider their personal position on the issue of survival in captivity versus
quality of life in the wild. Acknowledge that it is okay if students feel that
they've been swayed to take the other side.
2. For homework, instruct students to write a position paper
defending his or her point of view. The paper should state a position and be backed
up by factual details from the research to support the position.
3. Finally, students will present their papers in an oral
presentation to the rest of the class. Encourage students to use visual aids,
including photographs, charts, graphs, timeline, etc, to support their positions.
- Take a class poll to find out whether more students are for
or against giraffe captivity. Chart the findings in a bar graph.
- Create a life-size stuffed giraffe with two sheets of butcher
paper that matches the height of a real giraffe. Design a pattern on the giraffe's
skin, cut out the sheets and partially connect them by stapling around one edge.
Stuff the inside of the giraffe with small balls of crumpled paper. Staple the
- Write the story starter "If I had a pet giraffe ... " on
the chalkboard. Invite students to use what they learned to create a story or
- Put on a puppet show or play in which students weave into
the script the many interesting giraffe adaptations. For example, they can do
a play about why the giraffe has a long neck.
- Select an animal and describe it using words and phrases.
Have the rest of the class figure out what the mystery animal is.