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Natural Communication - Teacher's Guide

   Episode Overview
wolfIn the opening segment, Junior Naturalist Patrice looks at how animals communicate with visual, auditory, chemical, and tactile signals. Next, Patrice and Senior Naturalist Dave Erler observe the red fox and how it communicates using scent. Then we take an up-close view at how songbirds communicate. Finally, Morissa and Benjamin visit a pond with Herpetologist Tom Tining and learn how frogs communicate.
   Program Objectives
Students will:
1. Analyze how adaptations help organisms survive.

2. Identify communication as an adaptation that is important for survival.

3. Give examples of different types of communication; i.e., visual, tactile, chemical, auditory.

4. Give examples of communication in living organisms.

5. State uses for communication in the natural world.

6. Recognize the distinct characteristics of the red fox and songbirds.

7. Describe how the red fox and songbirds use communication to survive and reproduce.
Adaptation Display
Structural Auditory
Behavioral Dominance
Visual Submission
Badge Syrinx
   Previewing Activity

1. Group students in pairs. Give each person a piece of paper with a simple sentence on it. Tell the students they have to communicate the meaning of the sentence to their partner without using words or writing. Give the students 15 minutes to figure out what the sentences are. (Sample sentences might be: The dog barked. The girl is tired. The apple is red...) Have the students share how they figured out the sentences. What forms of communication did they use?

2. Make a list with two columns. In one column put humans, and in the other put animals. Have students generate a list of ways humans communicate and the ways animals communicate.

   Post-Viewing Activities

1. Have students observe human communication and record how it is used. Take the students to an area where people are gathered. Design a "field guide" with categories for visual, auditory, tactile, and chemical communication. Have each student pick a "subject" and record how they communicate and what they are communicating.

2. Take a nature walk with your students and have them listen and take notes about the animal sounds they hear.

3. Have the class learn a "bird song."  Many birds learn their song by listening to the notes of other birds. In this activity student are birds and learn their group's song.   Go around the class and have each student repeat the song of the "birds" before them and then add their own note. See how far the students can get before the song is lost!

  Hands-On: Good to Smell You

Materials Needed

cotton balls
collection of seven distinct scents in liquid form (vanilla extract, perfume, household cleaner...)
index cards
recording sheets


Tell the students they are going to identify the scent markings of five different "animals."

When the students are not in the classroom, soak 3-5 cotton balls in each scent and place them around the room. Assign an "animal" to each scent.

Hold one cotton ball aside for each scent. Place it on an index card with the animals name on it. Have the students go around the room, find and identify the "animals," and record what they find and where they found it.

Note:  Make sure the smells from the cotton balls don't dissipate before the students get back into the room. You may also want to note where you put the "animals" so you don't get confused!

   Additional Resources

Web Sites

Animals from the Oakland Zoo
Animal fact sheets from the Oakland Zoo.

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

You will find photos and profiles of thousands of animals at this site.

Alex and Friends: Animal Talk, Animal Thinking by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent  photographs by William Munoz
ISBN: 0822528592
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
Publication Date: April  1998
Reading Level: Ages 12 and up
Looks at the work  Dr. Irene Pepperberg is doing with Alex the gray parrot and further investigates animal communication and intelligence.

Animals That Talk by Kyle Carter
ISBN: 1559161159
Publisher: Rourke Book Company
Publication Date: July 1995
Reading Level: Ages 5 to 9

Bees Dance and Whales Sing: The Mysteries of Animal Communication by Marjorie Facklam;  illustrated by Pamela Johnson 
ISBN: 0871565730
Publisher: Sierra Club Books for Children
Publication Date: April  1992
 Reading Level: Ages 8 to 11
Covers the basics of animals communication.

Body Language by Pam Robson
ISBN: 0531153495
Publisher: Watts Franklin
Publication Date: August 1998
Reading Level: Ages 7 to 10
Looks at how humans and animals use their bodies to communicate.

How Animals Talk 
National Geographic Society 
Edited by John G. Agnone 
ISBN: 0792234065
Publisher: National Geographic Society
Publication Date: February 1996
Reading Level: Ages 5 to 8
How animals communicate with sight, smell, touch, and sound.

How Monkeys "Talk" by Martin Banks
 ISBN: 0761408584
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Inc
Publication Date: September 1998
Reading Level: Ages 8 to 12
How monkeys and other primate communicate.

Prairie Dogs Kiss and Lobsters Wave: How Animals Say Hello by Marilyn Singer; illustrated by Normand Chartier 
ISBN: 0805037039
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Incorporated
Publication Date: October  1998
Reading Level: Ages 5 to 8

Koko's Kitten by Francine Patterson; photos by Ronald H. Cohn
ISBN: 0590444255
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication Date: May  1987
Reading Level: Ages 6 to 9
All about Koko the gorilla,  who has learned to communicate using sign language, and her relationship with her kitten All Ball.

Koko Love!: Conversations With a Talking Gorilla by Francine Patterson and Karen E. Lotz (Editor); photographs by Ronald H. Cohn
ISBN: 0525463194
Publisher: Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 1999
Reading Level: Ages 7 to 9
More with Koko the gorilla. This book looks at her daily life and includes actual conversations.


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