Whether you teach habitats in second grade or Middle School, understanding how animals survive in their corner of the world is critical to a well-rounded perspective on life on planet Earth. Animals evolve or disappear based on their ability to adapt to the environment.
Here are eight resources to encourage discovery of the amazing and varied worlds that surround Earth’s animals:
This interactive, colorful site gamifies the process of creating a habitat that suits the selected animal. After reading brief instructions (including the definition of habitat), students select the animal, the habitat, the vegetation, and the precipitation level. Then, the site calculates how compatible their choices are to the animal’s survival. For example, if the student places a beaver in the desert in a downpour, the compatibility thermometer will be low.
This game is part of the popular Switch Zoo site where students can mix-and-match body parts to create their own favorite animal. It is available on computers, Chromebooks, and in a limited edition as an app.
In this game, students design a habitat for one of the world’s endangered species, the black-footed ferret. They watch a quick slideshow on the animal and then build a new home somewhere in the world intended to prevent the animal’s extinction. The game is thorough (including background and specific facts), requires basic reading, and expects students to apply what they learned while researching in the quest to find the ferret a new home.
This is one of twelve free science-themed games offered by Wildscreen Arkive. It is suited for computers and Chromebooks.
This BBC game (part of the Bitesize series) places students in the position of a science detective to help aliens who have stumbled onto Earth get back to their home planet — the only habitat in which they can survive. Directions are both audio and textual with lots of assistance along the way. As teachers have come to expect, BBC does its usual great job with facts and topic presentation. The game also includes an optional quiz to assess student knowledge.
It can be played on both computers and Chromebooks, as well as embedded into the class website, blog, or wiki (see below):
Scholastic joins with the Magic School Bus to gamify student learning about how habitats appeal to different animal species. In this game, students match animals with their habitats. It is intuitive, busy, with the lively music associated with all Magic School Bus products.
This is a great class warm-up or exit ticket, easily completed in five minutes. It can be played on computers, Chromebooks, or iOS.
This science curriculum is offered by E-Learning for Kids and includes nine K-6 units on the habitats of animals around the world. Locations include Hawaii, Easter Island, Australia, as well as more remote spots such as Antilles and Nova Zembla. To quickly find a topic, simply use Ctrl+F to search the page. Each unit is story-based, with audio as well as text, and includes an introduction, a discussion of the animals and how they’re adapted to their environment, and a certificate of completion.
These are user-friendly, colorful, with no advertising. They can be accessed on computers, Chromebooks, or downloaded with permission of E-Learning for Kids (the developer).
In WolfQuest, you are the wolf, trying to survive in Yellowstone Park. You learn how to hunt elk, communicate with other wolves, find a mate, establish a den and territory, raise pups, and embark on a perilous journey to a summering site.This is an amazing simulation that painlessly teaches students not only about the wolf’s habitat, but characteristics that impact the animal’s life story.
This plays well on computers, both Macs and Windows. Soon, it will be extended to iOS. The newest version requires a fee, but players can use the older version for free.
This four-minute video viewed by over 22 million people tells the story of the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park and how their natural lifestyle impacted the environment to the extent that even the rivers adapted to the rhythm of their lives. The video clip is engaging, natural, non-violent, and even addictive in their peek at this predecessor to man’s best friend. The wolf howls will stay with students as an audio signature of these amazing creatures.
This is a great quick introduction to not just a discussion of habitats, but endangered species and geography. It is a YouTube video so can be played wherever you have access to this site.
Most of these sites are ad-free (or ad-minimal) and can be completed easily in a class period. Collect them to your class website and let students select the ones they want to play and the pace they are comfortable engaging. Expect them to come away with a realization that 1) animals are adapted to the conditions of the habitats in which they live, and 2) Earth supports many different habitats, each with distinct features and distinct animal populations.
More science sites:
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.