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Animal Adaptation: Teachers

Educator Resources from PBS Learning Media

Animal Adaptations is a complete teaching guide for primary grades using informational texts, digital games and video clips from Wild Kratts. K-2 teachers will find this standards-aligned resource extremely useful in helping children build conceptual knowledge and engage in scientific thinking and reasoning.

NatureWorks, from New Hampshire Public Television, is a great student site for learning about structural and behavioral adaptations. A teachers' guide is also available. You may also want to check out their pages on Coloration, Communication, and Migration. Each topic has a video, a quiz, and a teachers' guide. Nature Files is an engaging resource for students' independent study time.

The PBS series NATURE has a terrific collection of Animal Adaptations videos for classroom use. Support materials for each video clip include teaching suggestions, background information, discussion questions, and student handouts.

Adaptation from WGBH is a lesson plan for grades 5-6 where students examine the evolution of adaptations and compare the physical and behavioral adaptations of animals in the Arctic tundra and Sonoran desert biomes.

Adaptations and Exceptions highlights different kinds of animal claws and their uses.

For primary grades, Creaturepedia from PBS Kids' Wild Kratts is a fun way for kids to explore all the amazing "creature powers" that allow animals to survive and thrive. Aviva's PowerSuit Maker is an independent or partner activity that allows students to get creative with their adaptation knowledge.

Adaptation Information for Teachers

Brush up on your knowledge of the science of adaptations.

The University of California's articles on adaptations, natural selection, and common misconceptions contain helpful background information.

Learn more about camouflage, desert survival, and winter adaptations.

Follow the evolution of biological understanding as scientists throughout history observed animals' adaptations.

What about traits that seem to have no function, adaptations that have multiple functions, or adaptations that seem to have conflicting purposes for an animal's survival? Find out about some of the less-obvious aspects of adaptation.

Read about one animal that seems to have it all: structural adaptations, warning colors, camouflage, poison, courtship rituals and more.

Lesson Plans

National Geographic has a series of lessons on adaptations that you may want to use in your classroom. The informational article Adaptation and Survival is available as leveled text for 2nd - 6th grade and above.

National Geographic lessons with video clips and instructional guides include Animal Adaptations in the Ocean, Arctic Adaptations, and Adapting Down Under. Defender: Natural Selection and Making Blubber Gloves are hands-on student activities.

Arizona State University's Ask a Biologist website has an excellent series of lessons for teaching principles of adaptation. Why vs How in Biology, Camouflage in Nature, and The Peppered Moth: A Seasoned Survivor give essential background information. Sooty Selection is a complete natural selection lesson plan that includes a student guide, an experiment packet with worksheets, a power point presentation, pre- and post-assessments, and an engaging interactive simulation where students assume the role of predator in Picking Off the Peppered Moth.

Superstaar from Baylor University is a collection of standards-aligned lesson plans for grades 2-5. Scroll through the available lessons on animal adaptations, instinctive behaviors, and environmental effects.

Adaptation Connections from San Diego Zoo (grades 1-3) and Animal Adaptations from Milwaukee Zoo (grades 3-5) are based around zoo excursions, but both contain a wealth of lessons and hands-on activities that can easily be used in the classroom without a physical field trip. You'll find these lessons engaging and comprehensive with the inclusion of cross-curricular projects.

Animal Adaptations is a lesson plan designed for fourth grade but easily adaptable to other grade levels. It includes power point presentations, quizzes, structured inquiry activities, and assessments.

In this lesson from Scholastic, students are challenged to become investigators as they select one animal and report on the ways it is adapted to its environment. A teachers' guide provides background and extensions.

The National Park Service offers a complete lesson plan on animal adaptations for upper elementary grades. You may also want to check out this NPS lesson on predator-prey adaptations and this US Fish and Wildlife art lesson on birds' physical adaptations.

Camouflage Facts for Kids, Kiddle Encyclopedia

Lesson ideas from Rice University and University of Oregon introduce 4th -5th grade students to the study of adaptations.

From the Utah Education Network comes a complete lesson plan structured around the pedagogy of Bloom's Taxonomy. A wealth of suggested resources are supplied to help students explore both physical and behavioral adaptations at all levels of learning outcomes.

Animal Adaptions from ScienceNet integrates geography and biology as students study animals around the world.

A 5th grade science teacher shares ideas for teaching adaptations, with emphasis on structure and function of physical adaptations and comparing and contrasting different animals.


Organisms' Adaptations is one of the most engaging interactives you'll find on the topic of adaptations. Students will digitally interact with animals as they learn about physical and behavioral adaptations and the kinds of adaptations best suited to different biomes, and make predictions about where similar animals are most likely to live.

This interactive from Missouri Botanical Garden focuses on plant adaptations in different environments, and includes photos, a game, and an adaptation song.

In Arctic Animal Discovery from the National Park Service, students locate animals on the landscape and hear their voices as they learn more about adaptations in every season of the year.

This site has several interactives for your students to try out.

More Resources for Educators and Students

Science World Museum in Vancouver has some great ideas for quick classroom activities that you'll want to check out.

For a short review of adaptation concepts, take a look at this 5- Minute Refresher summary. You may want to use a quick powerpoint review for younger students or for intermediate students.

Animal senses are fascinating to kids. It's amazing to consider to how much better some animals can see, hear, and smell than humans can. Take a look at this resource from University of Washington.

The National Park Service offers Educator Resources on many aspects of adaptation science. Although many of these resources are designed in association with field trips to NPS sites, they are easily adaptable for classroom use. For example, Desert Adaptations features many ideas for student activities that explore the ways plants and animals survive in their desert habitat.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has some excellent resources for teachers and students on the subject of bird adaptations. Although some are designed for specific locations, they are adaptable to classrooms anywhere. Check out Birds, Beaks & Adaptations, and a Refuge Adaptations lesson plan with accompanying student workbook and Adaptation Facts. You'll find more resources for teaching about bird adaptations at Project Beak.

Wikimedia Commons

Animal Adaptation: Homework Help has lots of fun facts about adaptation and a gallery of photos.

Find a wealth of resources for educators and powerpoint presentations on the subject of animal adaptations.

K-2 teachers may like to try these camouflage games.

In this UK adaptation resource pack, scroll down to find a set of Animal Adaptation Dominoes that you can use in your classroom.

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