Lesson 5

It's All About Habitat


Lesson Overview:

By comparing their basic needs for survival with those of animals, students will learn the basic components of habitat - food, shelter, water and space. After participating in a mystery game, they will demonstrate understanding of this ecological concept by creating their own mystery containers.

Most people, when asked to define habitat, will reply that it is where a plant or animal lives. This is partially correct but lacks the important aspect of this key ecological concept - that habitat, this area where plants and animals live, must provide them with their basic survival needs so that they can live and reproduce. Animals need food, shelter, water and space. (When defining habitat, ecologists also include the concept of space. We have not included space in this activity, as it is an abstract and difficult concept for young children to grasp. Space for an animal might be a hillside, a backyard, a forest or meadow. Space varies from animal to animal and also depends on the availability of food, shelter and water.) These must be available to them in a way that is usable. When one of these components is not available, the survival of the species can be compromised.

In this activity, students will gain understanding of what a critter (mammal, insect, bird, etc.) needs in order to survive by examining their own survival needs and comparing them to the survival needs of those critters found during the Census With Your Senses activity.

If students consider the arrangement of their own needs and think about what would happen if their refrigerator was located three miles down the road, they can begin to understand the concept of suitable arrangement within a space.

Content Standards Addressed:
Common Core State Standards



Reproducible: Mystery Critter Bag Cards 

Decorate nine paper bags with a large question mark and place them on your desk or other prominent classroom location. You can decorate these "Mystery Critter Bags" in a colorful way with art materials, fabrics or yarn. Cut apart the nine sets of "critter cards." Note that one card identifies the "Mystery Critter" and the other three give food, shelter and water clues about its identity. Inside each bag place a set of four critter cards. (Feel free to make your own cards using critters students discovered on the school grounds during the Census With Your Senses activity.)

As students express curiosity and interest, explain that the mystery containers hold a "critter" and everything that the critter needs to survive. No peeking, please! As students process this, they will probably ask for more information. In response, challenge them to think about what they need in order to survive.


Reproducible: What Do We Need To Survive?

In groups or individually, have students complete the logbook page, "What Do We Need To Survive?" by writing or drawing those things which they need in order to survive.



Present one of the Mystery Critter Bags and ask for responses as to what students think the mystery critter needs in order to survive (food, water and shelter). As students predict each correct answer, remove the appropriate symbol from the bag and read the information provided about shelter, food or water.
Explain that these clues will reveal the identity of the mystery critter but that students must wait until all the clues are discovered before determining the identity. They can write down what they think the critter is as the clues are revealed.
Once the identity of the mystery critter has been revealed, compare the survival needs of students and the mystery critter. You might use a single graphic organizer, such as a table or Venn diagram to help them see some of the patterns that are developing.
Proceed, pulling the other mystery critter clues out of their mystery bags one at a time. Repeat guessing and comparing for each and update the table.
Discuss what might happen to the critter if its habitat did not provide either food, shelter or water. How do humans have an impact on these habitats?
Have students create and decorate their own mystery bags. Let them choose one of the critters they found on the school grounds and create a set of clue cards to take home and quiz their families.


School: What do I need to survive?

Human Impact: How do I affect my critter's habitat? Draw a picture.

Take Home: What did my family guess was in the bag? What did they think the critter would need to survive? Pick another critter from your Home Habitat. Find out what it needs to survive. Draw pictures of its food, water and shelter needs.​