Kakadu - Australia's Ancient Wilderness Purchase Video
Classroom Resources

Animal Behaviors
Suggested Grade Level: 6-8
Estimated Time of Completion: Approximately three one-hour classes.
Allow one class period to introduce and discuss animal behaviors and relate them to human behaviors; one class period to watch the video (could be done in conjunction with study guide from Lesson 1; and one class period to review video, role play animal behaviors, and learn to predict how animals may behave based on their physical characteristics.

Lesson Objectives
Tools and Materials Needed
Science Standards
Teaching Strategy

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this activity, students will:

  1. Identify 7 major behaviors most animals possess (innate, learned, adaptive, homing, protective, territorial, and altruistic)
  2. List or identify behaviors of a given animal
  3. Predict an animal's behavior based on its physical characteristics

Tools and Materials Needed

  1. Copy of the program The Living Edens: Kakadu
  2. Chalk board or overhead

Science Standards

This lesson addresses the following national science standards found at http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/docs/content.html

  • Knows about the diversity and unity that characterize life
  • Knows that reproduction is a characteristic of all living things and is essential to the continuation of a species
  • Knows that the characteristics of an organism can be described in terms of a combination of traits; some traits are inherited and others result from interactions with the environment
  • Understands the basic concepts of the evolution of species
  • Knows basic ideas related to biological evolution (i.e., that biological adaptations, such as changes in structure, behavior, or physiology, allow some species to enhance their reproductive success and survival in a particular environment)
  • Knows that organisms can react to internal and environmental stimuli through behavioral response which may be determined by heredity or from past experience
  • Knows ways in which species interact and depend on one another in an ecosystem (e.g., producer/consumer, predator/prey, parasite/host, relationships that are mutually beneficial or competitive)

Teaching Strategy

Background information: From the time we wake up in the morning to when we eat that late night snack, we are responding to stimuli with given behaviors. Like humans, animals also respond to different stimuli with certain behaviors. In the video The Living Edens: Kakadu, unusual and interesting animals are shown in their habitat as they respond to stimuli around and within them. For example, the innate swimming and hunting behaviors of the salt water crocodile babies are well documented in the video, as well as the frilled neck lizard's protective behavior of hissing and demonstrating to ward off other male's aggressive attempts of gaining territory.

Ask the students why they are sitting where they are. Is it because they have a seating arrangement, or is it a personal preference? If there is a seating arrangement, ask them how they knew where to sit. Why don't they need to be told everyday where to sit?

Much of what is expected of students is a learned behavior, not necessarily taught everyday, but practiced. Animals need to learn certain behaviors also. Students might be familiar with Pavlov's dog. Ivan Pavlov noticed that his dogs would salivate when he put meat extract on their tongue. He then began to ring a bell before he gave them the meat extract. He learned that soon they were salivating at the sound of the bell, and not when the meat extract was given. The dogs, he found, had learned or associated the bell with the reward of food.

An innate behavior is one which does not need to be taught. If students think about infants, they will realize that they donšt need to be taught how to cry or burp or blink, they just do it. Students might be familiar with baby kittens or dogs being able to suck from the mother soon after birth. Baby dolphins come out swimming without needing a word of encouragement.

If you told your students that they needed to find a different way to get home today, they would have to change their typical behavior and find a new way. Adaptive behavior occurs when we need to change our schedules or routines to fit new criteria or restrictions. A good example of this is how many hawks have adapted to city living. They have used power lines as lookout posts and city lots for narrowing their hunting territory. By living among us, they have given up a little "natural" freedom for easy hunting.

If any of the students have ever experienced homesickness, they may have experienced the homing behavior many animals experience. The need to return to ones birthplace-home-usually in a yearly travel pattern, can be witnessed by watching geese use the same fly routes, or the ultimate sacrifice salmon make by swimming upstream to lay their eggs and then perish.

Students can relate to many fears: it may be a physical danger such as a speeding car, or a psychological fear such as failing a test. Students might feel they have a need to avoid these threats at all costs. A protective behavior of self-preservation is demonstrated when deer cautiously walk through the woods and then sound an alert if they suspect any harm may be near.

The school cafeteria is probably the best place to witness the second type of protective behavior - territoriality. When students guard their food they are showing their territoriality. They aren't about to let anyone else get what is theirs. These behaviors can range from animals marking their territory with urine or scent to ward off any intruders or competitors to the fight-to-the-death battles bald eagles sometimes have as they hook each other's talons and spin to the earth in a downward spiral until one lets go.

Finally, have the students think of all of the things they have done for others, or others have done for them today. Altruism is the self-sacrificing behavior that we possess as we provide for others before ourselves. Parenting is one example; bees provide another example as each one in the colony has a specific job to be carried out, or as those that sting a possible intruder sacrifice themselves for the hive.

Video Segments

If the teacher is limited to less than an hour, the first half of the video shows most of the behaviors noted. Specific times are noted after each behavior in the segment entitled "Animals of Kakadu and Their Behaviors." See below.


  1. Ask students to close their eyes and do one of the following: open a box of hot pizza or pop a balloon. Afterwards, ask students what happened when they smelled the pizza or heard the balloon. Did the pizza smell cause any physical reaction? How about the sound of the balloon popping? Explain to students that just like other animals, we exhibit a wide variety of behaviors in response to our environment.
  2. Write the seven behaviors on the board or overhead, and brainstorm examples of each behavior from the animal kingdom.
  3. Have students brainstorm examples of humans exhibiting these same seven behaviors. List these on the board as well.
  4. Watch the "Living Edens: Kakadu" video, or segments as described below.
  5. After viewing the video, discuss one or more of the animals featured in the video and the types of behaviors it exhibits. (See below for animals and corresponding behaviors shown in video.) If students discuss crocodiles, they may want to visit the Crococile section of this Web site or NOVA's Crocs! at http://www.pbs.org/nova/crocs/ for more information. [New Media: please make links].
  6. Have students (either in groups or individually) research their favorite animal and make a documentary or multimedia presentation highlighting the different behaviors as a way of showing understanding. Students might format this as a "Choose Your Own Adventure" story where readers take the part of the animal and choose different reactions or behaviors at different points in the story. The story could create multiple pathways depending on readers' choices, and could indicate which responses were innate, which were adaptive, etc.


Have students research their favorite animal and have them write down as many of the animal's behaviors as possible. Have them then play a game of Twenty Questions where students take turns asking what the behavior of another person's animal might be. For example, they might ask, "What is one innate behavior your animal exhibits?" or "What type of adaptive behaviors does your animal need to make throughout the year or its life?" They would ask these types of questions until someone has a guess about which animal is being discussed.

Animals of Kakadu and Their Behaviors

Salt Water Crocodile


  • Female preparing her nest and protecting eggs (1:14)
  • Freeing baby crocs from nest (1:21)
  • Baby crocs swimming and calling for help just after birth (1:19)
  • Babies hunting(1:21)
  • Female traveling upstream waiting for the rains (1:03)
  • Female fighting (1:47)


  • Baby crocs needing to learn how to adjust to river currents (1:28)


  • Female traversing on land in search of water (1:46)


  • Female going back upstream to where she laid her eggs (1:11)

Protective Territorial:

  • Male crocodile guarding his water hole (1:41)

  • Females fighting for river territory (1:47)


  • Mother crocs carefully carrying babies to water (1:19)

Magpie Geese


  • Cover eggs to stop them from becoming too hot (1:23)
  • Mating in threesomes rather than pairs (1:16)


  • Babies learning to forage for food (1:24)
  • Communicating danger signals, preening, and flying (1:24)


  • Gathering at new water hole when water becomes scarce (1:41)


  • Flying to ancestral breeding ground (1:16)


  • Sounding alert when danger is near (1:31)


  • Parents caring for young - putting themselves in harm's way to protect young (1:31)



  • Joeys drinking from mother, hiding in pouch, ritualistic scratching to indicate boxing matches (1:06)


  • Wetting of forearms and lying down as a way of staying cool in the heat (1:30)
  • Changing habit due to heavy rains (1:09)


  • Females carrying their young. Parents sounding alarm when danger is near (1:34)

Frilled Neck Lizard


  • Males raise their collars and hiss to protect breeding grounds (1:05)

Guana Lizard


  • Trees itself during rainy season to avoid drowning (1:12)

White Breasted Sea Eagles


  • Parents teaching young to hunt, fly (1:37)


  • Lay eggs during dry season when hunting is easiest (1:37)


  • Feeding and caring for young (1:37)

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