Survival of the Fastest: Predators and Prey on the African Savannah
Lesson Overview

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GRADE LEVELS: 5-8

TIME ALLOTMENT: One or two 45-minute class periods

OVERVIEW:

In this lesson, students will learn about the various attributes of different predators on the African grasslands which make them effective hunters, and about the attributes their prey have developed to help them survive the predators’ attacks. The development of both sets of attributes will be presented as part of natural selection—a process which takes varied forms (and produces varied results) in the earth’s different ecosystems.

In the Introductory Activity, students will use an online interactive to familiarize themselves with the physical attributes of the cheetah which make it such an effective predator. In the Learning Activities, students explore the cheetah’s use of these attributes in pursuit of its equally well-adapted prey—the gazelle—through video from the “Hunters and Herds” episode of the PBS series NATURE, which also discusses the similar contest between lions and wildebeests. The Culminating Activity challenges students to research, compare, and contrast predator/prey relationships in earth’s different ecosystems, and present their findings to the class.

This lesson is intended for use during study on natural selection and adaptations, or a unit on the food chain/web.

SUBJECT MATTER: Science, Biology

LEARNING OBJECTIVES:

Students will be able to:

  • Identify the attributes of different predators which contribute to their effectiveness as predators
  • Identify the attributes of different prey animals which contribute to their ability to elude predators
  • Discuss how the attributes of both predator and prey animals have developed in a process of natural selection
  • Compare and contrast predator/prey relationships from different ecosystems around the world.

STANDARDS:

National Science Education Standards

Life Science

Content Standard C

As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop understanding of:

  1. Structure and function in living systems
  2. Reproduction and heredity
  3. Regulation and behavior
  4. Populations and ecosystems
  5. Diversity and adaptations of organisms

MEDIA COMPONENTS:

Video: NATURE: “Moments of Impact– Hunters & Herds”

Clip #1 “Cheetah vs. Gazelle”

An animation-enhanced comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of this predator and prey pair.

Clip #2 “Lion vs. Wildebeest”

An animation-enhanced comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of this predator and prey pair.

Websites:

“Toki’s Survival Challenge”

An interactive in which a cheetah hunts its prey on the African savannah. From the PBS NATURE web site.

“Anatomy of a Cheetah”

A simple interactive highlighting the primary physical attributes of the cheetah as a predator.

MATERIALS:

For the class:

  • 1 computer w/ internet connection and projector

For each group of 3-5 students:

  • 1 computer w/ internet connection

PREP FOR TEACHERS:

Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:

Preview all of the video segments and websites used in the lesson.

Download the video segments used in the lesson to your classroom computer, or prepare to watch them using your classroom’s internet connection.

Bookmark the website used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Using a social bookmarking tool such as del.icio.us or diigo (or an online bookmarking utility such as portaportal) will allow you to organize all the links in a central location.

Next: Proceed to Activities.

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    Using clips from NATURE, in this lesson students will learn about the various

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