Start in North America for great general sites about animals. Or pick a region, and off you go! Check out these books, activities and web sites worth a visit.
Take a trip around the world through books. What better way to travel?
For region-specific books click on the interactive map.
This book is called Around the World on Eighty Legs. (This is a tongue-in-cheek, unscientific estimate, playing off Jules Verne’s classic 1873 adventure, Around the World in Eighty Days.)
If we count ONE animal of each type in the book, how many legs are there?
Imitate your favorite animals. (Some animal feats are tougher than others – the sugar glider leaps 300 ft., and the basilisk runs on top of water.) Make it non-competitive or award “medals” in a variety of categories.
Download Around the World on Eighty Legs Bookmarks to print and trim!
Take trip around the world through books or thematic units – for a day, a week or a whole school year.
Create Passports Take photos of your students and create passports. Use a template found online or create your own with blue cardstock and gold seals or patriotic stickers. Stamp each location after you’ve studied that region.
Make a 2D Suitcase Using construction paper, create a suitcase-shaped portfolio for student work. Or bind writing projects with a “suitcase” cover.
Make a 3D Suitcase Take a handled pencil box (or paint a wooden suitcase found at craft stores). Decorate it with global destination stickers, or make your own from white labels. Create luggage tags labeled with student names. Store pencils or student-created postcards from your trip around the world.
Take a Virtual Airplane Trip Fasten your seatbelts, and place your seats in the upright position. Set up chairs in rows, with an aisle, as on an airplane. (Snacks and beverage service are optional.) Watch video clips of animals around the world, or deboard the plane to do activities at each “destination.”
Host a Bon Voyage or Welcome Home Party
Host a class potluck featuring international dishes, foods that come from the rainforest, etc.
You can find templates for the following activities online or in resource books.
Create a Postcard/Write a Friendly Letter
Send a “postcard” from the continent of your choice. Using proper letter form (date, salutation, body, closing, signature), tell all you’ve learned about the animals who live there.
Write a Persuasive Letter
Write a letter to your parents, convincing them to let you keep an elephant (crocodile, etc.) as a pet. Organize your reasons from the least to the most important. Mention the animal’s unique physical attributes/talents to explain how it could be handy at home.
Create a “Wanted” Poster
In the tradition of the Wild West, create a “Wanted” poster about an animal of your choice. Try these starters or come up with your own: cheetah/speeding, slow loris/holding up traffic, sugar glider/flying without a license, basilisk/defying laws of gravity.
Create a Class Book Have each student create and illustrate a page: “If I had ___ like a ___, I could ….” (e.g. If I had a body like a penguin, I could go sledding without any sled. If I had a head like a cassowary, I could bike without a helmet.) Answers can be humorous but must be true.
Questions, Questions …
Try these starting points for research, class books or discussion. Or for fun after a traditional unit of study, create a game show, so students can show what they’ve learned. Click to download all Animal Explorations.
Love the Skin You’re In/Neither “Hair” Nor There
In the animal kingdom, form has a function. An animal’s skin/coat can help it survive. What’s so special about each of these animals’ skin, hair or fur?
(Chinchilla, rhino, yak, ocelot, tapir, alpaca, Arctic fox, sugar glider, snow leopard)
Lumps, Bumps, Scales, Horns and Thorns
Funny as they may look, lumps and bumps serve a purpose. How are the poky, pointy (or just plain funny-looking) parts of each animal helpful?
(Thorny devil, warthog, camel, pangolin, rhino, echidna, cassowary)
Say “Cheese! ”
What’s so special about each of these animals’ teeth or tusks?
(Crocodile, agouti, warthog, hyena, walrus, elephant, piranha)
Watch this amazing video clip about agouti teeth: http://videos.howstuffworks.com/
Write a Research Report
Research your favorite animal’s physical appearance, habitat/range, mode of locomotion, diet, behavior, adaptations, life cycle/reproduction, natural enemies, species survival status, and other interesting facts. Include maps, diagrams, photos or multimedia. Cite your sources in a bibliography.
Discuss the concepts of migration, hibernation, insulation and camouflage. Pick an animal and explore which adaptation(s) it uses to survive and thrive.
Biomes of the World – Habitats
Study the world’s biomes – the major regions of our planet characterized by their flora, fauna and climate – and the animals that live there. (e.g. Terrestrial biomes – desert, tropical rainforest, temperate forest, grassland, taiga and tundra/Aquatic biomes – marine and freshwater)
Food Chain/Food Web Pick a biome (or smaller ecosystem within it) and explore the food web/food chain. Who eats whom? Or create a literal paper “food chain,” writing facts about each animal on each link.
Try these math idea starters, or create your own. Click to download all Math Activities.
An ostrich and a hippo are at the waterhole. How many legs? How many more legs does a yak have than an emu?
Greater Than/Less Than
Which has a greater number of legs?
(Five penguins or three tigers? Two kangaroos or ten anacondas?)
Five emus and three dingoes crossed the outback. How many legs? Or make a skip counting/multiplication book to count animal legs.
Graphing Choose five animals. Which is your favorite? Graph and analyze your results. Or pick a continent/region from Around the World on Eighty Legs. How many mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish?
Click to download all PE/Movement Activities.
Hop Like a Kangaroo
How can kangaroos keep going and going and going? Kangaroo legs work like pogo sticks – their tendons act like springs, storing up energy from one bounce to power the next one. Bounding along takes much less energy than hopping and stopping. The kangaroo’s long tail provides balance, helping them bound more quickly.
Watch this ARKive video of kangaroos bounding.
Your legs are not spring-loaded like a kangaroo’s, but give hopping a try: is it easier to hop and stop, or to keep going?
First try hopping on two feet in an upright position. Then try holding one leg out behind you like a kangaroo’s tail. Is it easier or more difficult?
Try it with a kangaroo stuffed animal in a tote bag. Is it easier to hold it in your hand, or tightly in front of you, like a joey in a pouch?
Gibbons are actually apes, not monkeys – like all apes, they have no tail. Why are gibbons so much more nimble than humans? Their shoulders are incredibly flexible – their long arms can rotate almost all the way around in their sockets. Unlike humans, their wrists also contain ball-and-socket joints, adding for greater range of movement.
Watch an ARKive video clip of gibbons brachiating through the trees.
Try relays on the “monkey” bars to imitate the gibbon.