Animal Adaptation (UBD Unit)

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Life Science Level 3


Big Idea

(what is the overarching idea or theme which will encourage transference of learning?)


Essential Questions

(What provocative question, related to the big idea, can be asked of students which will hook students and lead to inquiry?)


Established Goals

Standard(s) which lesson is based upon(assessed during instruction/learning):

3.20 - Heredity and life changes

3.21 - Structure and Function of organisms

Standards which will be referenced(introduced, but not formally assessed):

3.22 - Populations and ecosystems


Students will understand (this should be the answer to the question: "Why do I need to know this")........

-The student will understand that even humans adapt.

-The student will understand that adaptation is key to an organism’s survival.

Students will know...

-the structure of an organism facilitates its function.

-the structure and function of a species might change over time in order to ensure survival.

-adaptation can be a direct result of physical environment.

-the difference between inherited traits and acquired traits

-meaning of terms adaptation, environment, genetics, natural selection, heredity

-science explains natural processes based on scientific evidence gathered

-organisms are made of parts

-purpose of classification and a dichotomous key

-major systems of plants and animals and their purpose in relation to survival of the individual

Students will be able to...

-explain changes in life forms – heredity, genetics, natural selection.

-describe how the adaptation of an organisms structure, function, behavior, and life cycles help it survive in its environment.

-identify traits as inherited or acquired

-contrast a species adaptation vs. an individual adaptation

-describe how a species has changed, over time, in response to an environmental change (ex. how are 2 mammals - a grizzly and polar bear - different? how do these changes help them survive in their environment? did the change happen before or after they were born? etc)

-sort animals/plants into groups and justify their groupings based on physical characteristics

-make connections between systems of plants and animals and their purpose in relation to survival

-identify a cause/effect relationship between a change in the environment and animal behavior (ex. lack of food/migration)

-using a dichotomous key, identify a variety of plants and animals

-create a dichotomous key to group items

Assessment Evidence

Formative Assessment Prior to Lesson

Type of Assessment

KWL chart

Level of Understanding


Formative Assessment During Lesson

Type of Assessment

Quartet Quiz

Thumbs up / Thumbs down




Exit cards

Yes / no cards

Level of Understanding





Formative Assessment at end of Lesson

Type of Assessment


Scoring Guide

Level of Understanding




Summative Assessment

Type of Assessment


Learning Plan

Daily Plan

(Consider including grouping, differentiated instructional strategies to be used, and teacher tips.)

Day 1:

     - KWL on animal adaptation - What do your students know and want to know about animal adaptation?
     - Whole class - choose two animals and compare their differences and similarities using a Venn Diagram
     - Partners - choose two animals and compare their differences and similarities using a Venn Diagram
     - Introduce the vocabulary words:  structure, function

Day 2 - 4:

     - Sort and classify pictures of animals
     - Model classifying with the whole class
     - Use pictures of animals and use vocabulary: structure and function
     - Students classify pictures with partners or groups
     - Discuss how each group classified their animals
     - Introduce 5 animal groups:  birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians
     - Discuss each group's major structures and their functions - ex. fish have gills so they can breathe under water
     - Make foldables with the 5 groups and their major structures and functions

Day 5 - 7:

     - Introduce the term 'adaptation'
     - Demonstrate things that adapt ex:  language adaptations, sunflowers, rules of a game might adapt 
       (teacher may decide to play a game that would have to adapt to make it better)
     - Show video clips of animals adapting ex:  octopus camoflauge, crab leg growing back, sunflower moving, caribou losing antlers, etc.

     - Discuss the difference between species adaptation and individual adaptation 
       ex: species adaptation - grizzly bears and polar bears have adapted to their regions 
           individual adaptation - a lion might figure out how to run faster than another lion to get the food
     - Introduce vocabulary: genetics, heredity
     - Provide scenerios for students to determine whether or not an adaptation is species or individual
       ex:  a giraffe has a long neck, a seal has blubber, a wolf becomes the alpha, a woodpecker has a long beak, a dog begs for 
            food, etc.
     - Assess in some way (written quiz, thumbs up / thumbs down, etc.)

Day 8:

     - Explain genetics and heredity
     - Model and give examples of inherited traits and non-inherited traits
       inherited traits:  hair color, eye color, skin color, some diseases, etc.
       non-inherited (acquired) traits:  scars, length of hair, tatoos, make-up, etc.
     - Students discuss with a partner (or inside outside circles) their own genetics and what of their traits have been inherited 
       and what have been acquired.
     - Students can share traits with the whole group
     - Assess:  Use yes/no cards on different traits 
                Yes/no activity
     - Assess:  Exit card:  Name one inherited trait that you have, name one acquired trait that you have, which trait might your 
                future children have?
                Inherited traits graphic

Day 9:

     - Discuss specific body adaptations in animals and provide pictures
     - Include different types of teeth, feet, skin, etc.  
     - Use inquiry to lead the students to determine the function of the body parts  ex:  How mammals survive in arctic waters
     - Discuss the different functions and environments that they are adapted for
       ex:  teeth - fox have sharp teeth and caribou have flat teeth for the types of food that they eat
            fur - grizzly bears have brown fur and polar bears have white fur to blend in to their surroundings

Examples of teeth website:

     - Show pictures or video clips of animals able to function well in their environment because of their adaptations

Day 10 - 11:

     - Students will choose an animal to think about
     - They will describe its environment/habitat and list some of it distinct characteristics ex: Research on an animal worksheet
       (Teachers may differentiate this in any way: draw a picture, discuss with a partner, write a list, etc)
     - The students will determine which of its structures and functions help it to survive in its environment
       ex:  a seal survives in the cold water because it has blubber to keep it warm, large lungs to allow it to dive deep, etc.
     - Students will create a foldable that states the animal, its structures, functions, and how these help with survival
     - Students will do a jigsaw with their information: go to a group, get information, return to original group, 
       and share new information about other animals
     - They will record new information that they have learned on a foldable

Day 12:

     - Introduce the vocabulary: natural selection
     - Play a game that demonstrates natural selection where a weak team dies out or do some other activity

Here is an activity that helps demonstrate natural selection - Preying on Beans:

Here is a recording sheet to acompany the bean activity: Preying on Beans

     - Give examples of natural selection ex.  short neck giraffes have died, 
       bears are becoming more timid because aggressive bears are being killed by people and their genes are dying out
     - Assess:  With partner, group, or on own - What is natural selection?  Draw a picture, verbally explain, or write a response

Day 13:

     - Discuss cause/effect relationships between a change in the environment and animal behavior 
       ex. lack of food/migration, less ice/polar bears swimming longer distances, warmer weather/armidillos moving north

     - Give students scenerios of 'what ifs' so that they can predict animal behavior and adaptations 
       ex.  What would the reindeer do if all of the vegetation around Stebbins died?
            What would the musk ox do if the temperatures in their region started rising?
     - Differentiate this activity in some way:  groups, partners, or individual; perform skit, write story, sing song, etc.

Day 14:

     - Revist KWL
     - Find out what students have learned about animal adaptation
     - Introduce final product - show examples of what is expected
     - Go over scoring guide with students

Day 15 - 20:

     - Students work on final product
     - Presentations of final product
     - Class can sort/classify the invented animals

Other Thoughts

What are some possible extensions?

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