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Author: Emily Ryan
Time: 1 one-hour class period
Description: This activity explores animal's adaptations to their environments. Students will look at 
animal adaptations and then design and build their own unique animal that could live
in their backyard.
Grade Level:* 4-6

  • K-3
    Lesson Objectives:* To teach students about animals and why they have certain adaptations for 
    particular environments.
  • To teach students to design and build a model based on particular constraints.
    Materials Needed:* pipe cleaners
  • feathers
  • cloth
  • glue 
  • string
  • tape
  • popsicle sticks
  • any available building materials
    Preparation and Setup:* Gather an assortment of building materials (can use LEGOs or not)
  • Collect some research on animals and their adaptations.
  • Pictures of an environment that the animals need to adapt to.
  • If desired, break students into groups of 2 - 4.
  • Distribute materials to students.
    Teacher Background: Animals adapt to their environment in many different ways. The most evident adaptation
    is color and texture. Camouflage is used by many animals to protect themselves from
    predators. Some examples include tree frogs, polar bears, and iguanas. Animals may also 
    be colored to make them appear to be something they are not. Moths and butterflies 
    often have coloration that makes their wings look like eyes. Animals also adapt to their 
    environment. Giraffes developed long necks to allow them to reach food at the tops 
    of trees. Arctic foxes have snow white coats during the winter which they shed to 
    reveal a light brown coat for the summer months
    Vocabulary:* Adaptation
  • Design
  • Modeling
    Procedure:# Introduce animal adaptations to students, giving examples of familiar and unfamiliar 
    animals that have different adaptations that help them live in a particular environment.
    1. The attached document labeled AnimalAdaptPres.pdf can be used 
      to present info on animal adaptations to students
  1. Tell students that their backyards have a certain environment.
    1. Have students brainstorm some aspects of their backyard environments
      1. Space.
      2. Available foods.
      3. Places to make a home.
      4. Year round temperature.
      5. Dangers (pets/cars/people)
    2. If time, let students draw a picture of their backyard.
  2. Distribute building materials and tell students to build a model of an animal that
    might live in their backyard. Tell the students to build the animal with 
    adaptations for the environment in their backyard. 
  3. At the end of class, have students or student groups present their animal 
    to the class.
    1. Students should mention the adaptations that the animal has.
    2. Students should explain how their animal moves, behaves, what 
      it eats, where it lives, etc.
      Curriculum Standards:
      This activity meets the Massachusetts Frameworks Learning Standards for Life Science:

Grades K - 2

1. Recognize that animals and plants are living things that grow, reproduce, and need 
food air, and water.

6. Recognize that people and other animals interact with the environment through 
their sense of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. 

8. Identify the ways in which an organism's habitat provides for its basic needs.

Grades 3 - 5

6. Give examples of how inherited characteristics may change over time as adaptations 
to changes in the environment that enable organisms to survive, e.g., shape of beak 
or feet, placement of eyes on head, length of neck, shape of teeth, color.

10. Give examples of how organisms can cause changes in their environment to ensure 
survival. Explain how some of these changes may affect the ecosystem. 

This activity meets the Massachusetts Frameworks Learning Standards for 
Technology and Engineering:

Grades K - 2

 1.2 identify and explain some possible uses for natural materials (e.g., wood, 
cotton, fur, wool) and human-made materials

2.2 Describe how human beings use parts of the body as tools, and compare their 
use with the ways in which animals use those parts of their bodies.

Grades 3 - 5

2.1 Identify a problem that reflects the need for shelter, storage, or convenience.

2.4 Compare natural systems with mechanical systems that are designed to serve 
similar purposes, e.g., a bird's wings as compared to an airplane's wings. 



Assessment:* Student presentations


  • Teacher observations during the class period
  • No labels

1 Comment

  1. This activity was a great introduction to animal adaptations. Visuals were very helpful for demonstrating different adaptations. We did this activity in the winter, when it had just snowed, so the students focused mostly on cold-weather adaptations (i.e. Artic animals).

    As a final project for an adaptation unit, we came back to this activity at the end, altering it slightly. Instead of the design habitat being a backyard, we presented four different planets with different environments. Pairs of students made animals for different planets. The animals they created combined many of the relevant adaptations we covered through other activities during the semester. Example planet environments can be found here: