Lesson 1: Introducing Habitats and Biodiversity
- Identify habitats in Arizona.
- Define and illustrate a food web.
- Define and explain the importance of biodiversity in writing.
Materials Needed (per group):
Plant and animal
Ask students to give their definition of "habitat."
Bring them to this definition of a habitat.
A habitat is a place where a plant or animal naturally or normally
lives and grows.
Ask students to name some of the habitats they visited during the
Adventure of Echo the Bat. Responses may include forests, Mogollon
Rim, Grand Canyon, Tucson, Phoenix, desert area, etc.. Ask them to
predict the types of animals that live in Arizonas desert habitat.
Tell them that todays activity will look at some of the plants
and animals that live in Arizonas deserts.
Tell students that their task is to illustrate how some plants
and animals from Arizonas desert habitat are related to each
other. Divide the students into small groups, depending on the availability
of materials. Give each group a set of identification cards, string,
tape, and a pair of scissors. Tell them to read the "clues"
on the cards, then use the string to link the plants and animals together.
When groups finish, have them present their web and describe how the
plants and animals relate to each other.
Ask students if they know what this web is called. Have students
brainstorm names. Guide them to conclude that they created a food
web. Ask them to give a definition of a food web. Explain that a food
web is composed of many food chains. Give an example of a food chain
from the food web, such as a prickly pear, an arid land honey ant,
and a horned lizard.
Transition to discussing biodiversity by asking students what
would happen if one part of the food web "disappeared."
For example, what would happen if there were no more mesquite plants?
Take a card out of the food web to illustrate this. Have students
predict the outcome. Write their responses on the board. For example:
What if the ants disappeared? Would there be less food for
larger animals like lizards? Because lizards eat ants both as a
source of food and a source of water, the disappearance of ants
could possibly endanger the survival of lizards. The lizards are
a source of food for Hawks, Road Runners and other predators. So
the survival of lizards effects the survival of their predators.
What if the Harris' Hawk disappeared? Since Hawks eat squirrels,
would the population of squirrels and snakes increase? Would those
animals then consume more of the resources in that habitat (plants
and smaller animals)? Would other animals become endangered because
the squirrels and snakes are eating all the food?
What if the lesser long-nosed bats disappeared? Lesser Long-nosed
bats are a major pollinator for saguaro cactus. They carry pollen
on their noses from flower to flower. This pollinates the flowers
so that fruit can form. The fruit is an essential food source for
animals in the desert. The survival of animals who eat the saguaro
fruit would be endangered is the bats disappeared. The fruit is
the source of saguaro seeds. Saguaros are used as shelter for many
animals including the cactus wren, the Gila Woodpecker, the elf
owl, and others. So, if the Lesser Long-nosed bats disappeared,
the survival of animals who depend on the saguaro cactus for food
and shelter would be effected.
Ask students how this would affect the habitat. Explain that
if a part of the food web is missing, then the plants and animals
that depend on it may die. Explain that the desert is a very hot and
dry environment. Sources of shelter from the sun and water to drink
are essential for survival. Plants and animals depend on each other
just to survive a day under the hot desert sun.
Ask students what would happen if owls, lizards, bats, and saguaro
cacti disappeared from the Sonoran Desert? Would the habitat be more
or less diverse? Explain the definition of diversity.
Introduce the term "biodiversity." Ask students to predict
what this word means. Define the word by breaking it apart into "bio-"
and "-diverse." They should conclude that "biodiversity"
literally means biological diversity. Expand this definition to "a
variety of living things in a habitat." Discuss with students
why biodiversity is important in habitats. Lead them to the conclusion
that biodiversity is an indication of a healthy environment. If a
habitat has the necessary plants and animals for each to survive,
then the habitat will survive. Explain to students how the absence
of biodiversity can hurt a habitat.
Explain that biodiversity is important to habitats, including the
one we live in. Ask students to go home and think about their habitat
and determine whether it is biodiverse or not.
Have students write a paragraph on the habitat they live in and
whether it has biodiversity or not.
Tips for Teachers
- For short class periods, divide the cards into smaller groups so
that students have enough time to create the web. Suggested groups:
Group 1 - Centipede, Coyote, Creosote bush, Creosote Bush
Grasshopper, Desert Hairy Scorpion, Elf Owl, Gila Woodpecker, Gambels
Quail, Long-nosed snake, Mesquite, Prickly Pear, Ringtail Cat, and
Group 2 - Cactus Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Desert Tarantula,
Gila Monster, Harris Hawk, Harvester Ant, Jerusalem Cricket,
Kit Fox, Lesser Long-nosed bat, Palavered Tree, Pyrrhuloxia, Rock
Squirrel, Saguaro Cactus, and Teddy Bear Cholla
- Read a book to the class which illustrates describes the animals
of the Sonoran Desert. See Biodiversity Resource List.
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