Kalahari Explorations

Subject: Language Arts, Science, Geography

Grade Level: Upper Elementary 3-5


In this lesson students will learn about the rich and vibrant environment of the Kalahari Desert. They will learn about the diversity of life and land in the desert, create artistic responses to the film, and explore interactive Web site features to learn about the geography, wildlife, flora, topography, and people of this area. The students will work in collaborative research groups, create graphic organizers, and share what they have learned with their classmates.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will conduct research on varied aspects of the Kalahari Desert.
  • Students will synthesize and evaluate a variety of information sources.
  • Students will summarize content knowledge from varied resources and apply this knowledge by creating an artistic and informative presentation.

Bookmark the following sites:


Language Arts Grades 3-5

Writing, Standard 1, Level II
Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process.

Prewriting: Uses prewriting strategies to plan written work (e.g., uses graphic organizers, story maps, and webs; groups related ideas; takes notes; brainstorms ideas; organizes information according to type and purpose of writing).
Uses strategies (e.g., adapts focus, point of view, organization, form) to write for a variety of purposes (e.g., to inform, entertain, explain, describe, record ideas).

Reading, Standard 7, Level II
Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts.
Summarizes and paraphrases information in texts (e.g., includes the main idea and significant supporting details of a reading selection).

Viewing, Standard 9

Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media.
Understands different messages conveyed through visual media (e.g., main ideas and supporting details; facts and opinions; main characters, setting, and sequence of events in visual narratives).

Science Grades 3-5

Standard 6, Level II
Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment.

Knows that an organism’s patterns of behavior are related to the nature of that organism’s environment (e.g., kinds and numbers of other organisms present, availability of food and resources, physical characteristics of the environment).

Knows that changes in the environment can have different effects on different organisms (e.g., some organisms move in, others move out; some organisms survive and reproduce, others die).

Knows that all organisms (including humans) cause changes in their environments, and these changes can be beneficial or detrimental.

Geography Grades 3-5

Standard 4, Level II
Understands the physical and human characteristics of place.

Knows how the characteristics of places are shaped by physical and human processes (e.g., effects of agriculture on changing land use and vegetation; effects of settlement on the building of roads; relationship of population distribution to land forms, climate, vegetation, or resources).

Background Activities

Activity One

The purpose of this activity is to introduce background vocabulary that will facilitate students’ understanding of the lesson activities.

1. Divide the students into small research groups and provide them with the list of words below. Ask each group to use varied information sources to define the terms. Tell the students to list the source or sources they used to find information about each term.

  • Desert
  • Delta
  • Plain
  • Silt
  • Predator
  • Arid
  • Climate Zone


2. Ask each group to present its definition and the sources it used. Compare each group’s definition and the sources used. Students may use dictionaries, encyclopedias, trade books, and the Internet to find information.

The following is a list of Internet sources that may be helpful:

3. Lead a class discussion about how one is able to learn different kinds of information depending on the source materials used.

Activity Two

The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to aesthetically respond to the film through drawing.

1. After watching the film, tell the students to draw a scene that captures the beauty and power of nature in the Kalahari Desert. Encourage students to use color to capture the richness of the land and wildlife.

Activity One

The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to explore the diverse elements of the Kalahari Desert.

1. As a class, visit the “Introduction to the Eco-Explorer” at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/kalahari/eco_explorer.html. Ask the students to predict what information will be described in each section of the Eco-Explorer.

2. Divide the students into groups of three or four. Assign each group one section of the Eco-Explorer to investigate.

  • Group One: Map It
  • Group Two: Terra Zone
  • Group Three: Wildlife
  • Group Four: Florascope
  • Group Five: People
  • Group Six: Eco-Alert

3. Give each group a copy of the graphic organizer provided on the Organizers page to collect, record, and categorize information from the Web site section it has been assigned. A graphic organizer is a visual/spatial representation of information. It helps students explore new information and show interrelationships among concepts. Tell the students to use the Kalahari Desert Graphic Organizer as a model, modifying it by adding additional shapes and text to show connections between the facts they collect.

Activity Two

The purpose of this activity is for students to learn about the animals of the Kalahari Desert.

1. Tell the students to choose one of the following animals:

  • African bullfrog
  • Crocodile
  • Eagle
  • Elephant
  • Flamingo
  • Pangolin
  • Sandgrouse
  • Termite
  • Wildebeest
  • Zebra

After each student has selected his or her animal, send them to the site.

2. Provide each student with a 4×6 index card. Ask each student to draw a picture of the animal he or she has chosen on the front of the card, and to write a minimum of six facts on the back of the card.

3. After the students have created their animal cards, provide time for them to exchange cards with their classmates.

4. Create a classroom display of the students’ cards. Encourage the students to create more cards to add to the display if possible.

Extension Activities

Activity One

Have the students send a NATURE postcard to a friend by visiting the following section of the NATURE Web site.

Activity Two

Have the students visit the Puzzles & Games section of the NATURE Web site and explore the varied interactive activities.

Activity Three

Ask the students to browse the Wild Net Africa Web site at http://wildnetafrica.com/wildlife/wildlife.html and find a topic that is of interest to them. Have the students write a script for a television commercial that will interest readers in finding out more about the selected topic.

  • Jocelyn

    Is there any middle school games, puzzles, and activities?

Inside This Lesson

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