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Structural and Behavioral Adaptations - Teacher's Guide

   Episode Overview
beaverIn the first segment, Junior Naturalist Patrice looks at how plants and animals are adapted to their environment. Later, Patrice and Senior Naturalist Dave Erler look at the unique adaptations of the opossum. In the third segment, we take a closer look at the beaver. In the final segment, Cody and Octave visit the New England Aquarium's critical care ward and learn how they are treating Kemp's Ridley sea turtles that have washed ashore on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
   Program Objectives

Students will:
1. Analyze how structural and behavioral adaptations help organisms survive and reproduce.

2. Define structural and behavioral adaptations.

3. Observe and identify specific adaptations.

4. Give examples of structural and behavioral adaptations.

5. Recognize the distinct characteristics of the opossum and the beaver.

6. Describe adaptations exhibited by the opossum and the beaver.

Adaptation Membrane
Structural Migration
Behavioral Rodent
Camouflage Dehydrate
   Previewing Activities

1. Have students brainstorm what living things need to survive.

2. Have each student find a picture of an animal. Then have the students list unique characteristics of that animal and how they think those characteristics help it survive.

   Post-Viewing Activities

1. Have students develop a set of "why do" questions about animals and plants and do research to find the answers. For example:
Why do zebras have stripes?
Why do roses have thorns?

2. Have students work individually or in small groups to design an imaginary animal. They can use modeling clay, paper and crayons or markers, or other art supplies. Have each group give a name to their animal and develop a fact sheet. The fact sheet should include habitat, diet, gender, behavior and physical characteristics. Once the students are finished, display the animals and have the students examine the animals and make predictions about habitat, behavior and diet based on the animal's visible characteristics. Then have the students share their fact sheets with the class.

3. Have students list ways humans artificially adapt to extremes in their environment. For example, coats in winter, sunglasses, air conditioners, heaters, sunscreen, etc..

4. Talk about the story of the "Three Little Pigs" and how their behaviors (building different types of houses) affected their survival. Then have your students write their own animal tale that features adaptation.

  Hands-On: The Best Bill for the Job
   Materials Needed
plastic spoons
tweezers (or two popsicle sticks, or clothes pins with springs)
gummi worms
cooked spaghetti noodles
chocolate chips
uncooked rice
paper cups

Tell the students that they are testing which "beak" is better in gathering a variety of foods.

Distribute plastic spoons, a cup and gummi worms to each student. Give them 10 seconds to gather as many worms as they can and put them in their cup. Have the students record the number gathered. Repeat the process with the spaghetti noodles and the chocolate chips.

Distribute the tweezers and repeat the process.

Have the students compile their data and record which tool worked best and why.

A Cut Down on the Mess Suggestion!
Visit your local supermarket and ask if you can have some styrofoam meat trays. They are a great way to keep manipulatives like beads and rice off the floor when students are working.

   Additional Resources

Web Sites
Animal Diversity Web
This site from the University of Michigan Musuem of Zoology includes profiles of hundreds of animals.

Penguin Adaptation
Learn how penguins are adapted to their environment at this site from the Gulf of Maine Aquarium.

Investigate and Report on Animal Adaptations
This site from Scholastic challenges students to investigate, observe, and report on animal adaptations.


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