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Think about the animals you see when you walk outside, play at the park, visit the zoo or maybe even our World Alive aquarium at Discovery Place Science. Could all these animals live in the same habitat? Of course not!
Each animal has physical or behavioral traits that help them live in their specific habitat. These are called adaptations. An adaptation that is beneficial in one habitat might be deadly in another.
In this activity, we are getting creative by designing our very own animals. So, grab your favorite art supplies, cleaned recyclables and anything else you have lying around, and let’s get started.
This activity will take about 10-15 minutes of preparation followed by about 30 minutes of learning time. It is best suited for elementary school children.
- Random creative items around the house such as:
- Pipe cleaners
- Pom poms
- Fake leaves
- Glue stick or glue gun—if using a glue gun, please be sure to have an adult nearby!
- Any recyclable materials such as:
- Tissue paper
- Grocery Bags, paper or plastic
- Toilet paper and/or paper towel rolls
- Old shampoo or soap bottles
- Take a look. Use the animal diversity images featured below to look at various animals. Can you identify each animal’s habitat (the place where it lives)? Consider how it lives there, what it might eat or do. Compare and contrast the different parts of each animal. Do they have fur, scales, legs, claws? How would these physical traits help them live successfully in their habitats?
- Choose Your Biome. Use the biome information provided to learn and investigate different biomes. A biome is a large environment made up of plants and animals. Each biome is grouped together based on the climate, location and the living things found there. Look over these selected biomes and choose the environment in which you’d like your animal to live.
- Tundra: World’s youngest biome, with low biodiversity. Less than 50 species of mammals can be found there. Average temperature is -18 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Desert: Receives less than 10 inches of rain per year. Animals in this biome must adapt to retain water and keep cool.
- Ocean: Largest biome, covering 71 percent of the Earth’s surface. Holds 97 percent of the Earth’s water. Average temperature is 39 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Forests: There are two main types of forests – tropical, which are humid and see a lot of rain, and deciduous, which are made up of trees that lose their leaves.
- Taiga: The taiga is an evergreen coniferous forest. These trees have adapted to withstand the cold climate with a waxy coating of needles.
- Grasslands: There are two types of grasslands – tropical and temperate. Tropical grasslands are prone to drought, while temperate grasslands have nutrient-rich soil with few trees.
- Design your own animal. Get creative! No need to design an animal that already exists. Instead, use your imagination to make an interesting critter. The only requirement is that it should be able to adapt – use its physical traits or behavior – to survive in the habitat you’ve chosen.
- Describe your animal. Using a notecard or a piece of paper, write a few sentences about your animal. Where does it live? What does it eat? What eats it? Is it a nocturnal animal or does it come out during the day? Does your animal lay eggs? Is it covered in fur or feathers or scales? Does it make any sounds?
- Share! Share with your family members your wonderful new critter; see if they can figure out what biome your animal is from. Share it with us, too, by posting your picture to our social media channels with the help of an adult. Be sure to use the hashtag #MyDiscoveryPlace when posting your critter creation.
- Repeat. Pick another biome and create another animal.
How to adjust for younger and older learners
For younger learners, encourage them to draw their new animal within the chosen biome. Ask them to consider how their animal would survive if its habitat changed? It wouldn’t be easy to change their physical traits, but what behaviors might their animal have that allow it to adapt to the changing environment?
For older learners, encourage them to give their animal a role within their biome, detailing what they eat, what preys on their animal and what would happen if their animal’s numbers began to decline or grow rapidly.
Extra activity for the whole family!
Evaluate your family's knowledge of biomes and the animals that make their home in them by taking our ecosystem quiz found here.