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Helpful Habitats

Grade Level: 3-5

Lesson Overview:

This lesson focuses on the importance of plants in making a habitat for animals. Students will identify organisms in their local environment and what relationship they have with plants. Students will explore the National Wildlife Federation’s website and learn about the certification process for gardens. Students will also research plants that are native to certain areas.

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to:

  • Identify the ways in which organisms in their local environment interact with plants.
  • Describe ways to improve a garden or outdoor area to meet specific criteria.
  • Identify plants that are native to their area.
  • Explain the importance of creating habitats for wildlife.
  • Use an interactive map to research ecosystems around the United States.

Time Frame: Three sessions

  • One hour session for Engage and Explore
  • One 45 minute session for Extend
  • One 45 minute session for Explain and Evaluate

Materials for the teacher:

  • Photographs and descriptions of two gardens

Materials for students:

  • Sticky notes (3” or larger)
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Small magnifying lenses (for examination of small habitats)
  • Clipboards
  • Computers with Internet access (you may wish to reserve a computer lab for this activity)
  • Copies of two informational articles

Classroom Activities:

Session 1

Prepare sticky notes and hang chart paper up to attach the notes for class viewing.

  1. Give each student two sticky notes. Instruct students to write the names of two different animals that live in your local environment.
  2. Instruct students to place their animal names on the chart paper. Group the animal names so that similar animals are together with writing space around them.
  3. Have students look at the animal names. Then they should choose two (you may wish to assign animals so that all are addressed) and write down things that the animals needs to live.
  4. Review what is written down as they work and provide some guidance. Emphasize that students should think about what each animal has in its habitat and what it needs to survive.
  1. Be sure students have their science notebooks and pencils. Take students outside for a wildlife hunt. Before going, ask students to predict what they might see and then keep a tally chart of any wildlife they spot. Encourage students to look for wildlife that may not be easy to see. Stop and look beneath a bush or a rock or give each child a small area of grass and have them look for organisms living in it.
  1. Have students record their observations and then share what they found in their local habitat when you go back inside. They should explain what they saw that would make the habitat a good, safe place for these animals to survive.

Session 2

  1. Allow students to explore the National Wildlife Federation website, especially the webpages listed below. As they look at the website, ask students to find and list the main things that animals need to survive in a habitat
    1. http://www.nwf.org/Kids/Ranger-Rick/Activities/Help-Nature/Mixture-of-Species/Attracting-Wildlife-to-Your-Yard-in-Winter.aspx
    2. http://www.nwf.org/Kids/Ranger-Rick/Animals.aspx
    3. http://www.nwf.org/wildlifewatch/
  2. Next, direct students to the following website:
  3. Explain that the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has a certification process for gardens. Those who can provide, food, water, cover, and places to raise young, as well as creating sustainable gardening practices can get their gardens certified. Discuss why these characteristics of a habitat are important and compare them with the lists that the students made.
  4. Ask students to go back to their notebooks and look at their observations from their nature walk. Did they observe things in their environment that help provide for other organisms? What can be done to encourage more wildlife to live in a habitat close to the school?

Session 3

  1. Now that students understand the main elements of the NWF certification criteria, students can begin to list ways to meet each criteria. Randomly break students into four groups: food, water, cover and places to raise young. Ask each group to create a list of ways someone might be able to provide food, water, cover, or a place to raise young to animals in their backyard or at school. Have the groups share their ideas and create a large class list.
  2. Using the U.S. Ecosystems Map, instruct students to research native plants in a specific region, and find out how these plants contribute to the region’s habitat and the wildlife that lives there. Have them create an informational brochure or slideshow about habitats in the region using the information they learned from the interactive map.
    1. Here are some examples of websites they may use to research native plants:
      1. Maryland http://www.nps.gov/plants/pubs/nativesMD/info.htm
      2. Maine http://extension.umaine.edu/publications/2500e/
      3. Michigan http://www.nativeplants.msu.edu/
      4. Chesapeake Bay http://www.nps.gov/plants/pubs/chesapeake/index.htm
  1. Hold a discussion with students using the following guiding questions:
    1. Why is adding grasses, plants and trees to a backyard garden or school courtyard garden important?
    2. What are the important components of a habitat?
  2. Students can work in pairs to write a newspaper article explaining the National Wildlife Federation’s process for certification of gardens, and the importance of using native plants. Students can incorporate what they have learned in writing about persuasive techniques.
  3. The following two websites have informational articles about insects and lawns. Break the class into two groups, and give one article to one group and the other article to the remaining students. Have the students read the assigned article and then pair up with a student from the other group to explain what they learned.
    1. http://www.projectcleanwater.org/pdf/ipm/lawn_insects_pestcard.pdf
    2. http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/339_BeneficialBugs.pdf
  1. Provide students with two habitat descriptions and photographs of these habitats and ask students to explain which habitat would certify for the NWF and which wouldn’t. Ask them to explain why and why not. As an extension, students can explain what could be added to the non-certifying habitat to make it certifiable.

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National Science Education Standards Addressed:

Simple instruments such as magnifiers, thermometers, rulers, provide more information than scientists obtain using only their senses.
Organisms have basic needs. For example, animals need air, water, nutrients, and light. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs can be met. The world has many different environments, and distinct environments support the life of different types of organisms.
All animals depend on plants. Some animals eat plants for food. Other animals eat animals that eat the plants.
Propose a solution. Students should make proposals to build something or get something to work better; they should be able to describe and communicate their ideas. Students should recognize that designing a solution might have constraints, such as cost, materials, time, space, or safety.

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