Lesson 1: Introducing Habitats and Biodiversity

Students will:

  • 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 identification cards

String

Tape

Scissors

Engagement

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 Arizona’s desert habitat. Tell them that today’s activity will look at some of the plants and animals that live in Arizona’s deserts.

Exploration

Tell students that their task is to illustrate how some plants and animals from Arizona’s 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.

Explanation

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.

Extension

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.

Evaluation

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, Gambel’s Quail, Long-nosed snake, Mesquite, Prickly Pear, Ringtail Cat, and Roadrunner

    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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+ Freedom of Information Act
+ Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
+ The President's Management Agenda
+ Privacy Policy and Important Notices
+ Inspector General Hotline
+ Equal Employment Opportunity Data Posted Pursuant
to the No Fear Act

+ Information-Dissemination Priorities and Inventories
+ USA.gov
+ ExpectMore.gov

NASA
NASA Official: Ruth Netting
Last Updated: March 27, 2007
+ Common Questions
+ Contact NASA