Skip to content Skip to footer
TPSP logo

Description of Unit

Students will study different animals to learn about their basic needs and ecosystems in which they live. Students will choose an animal to observe, describe, and research, determining its basic needs and how they are met. Students will then discuss different outcomes for their animals if their needs are not met. Their learning will culminate in an animal report in which they will predict their animals’ future if their needs are not met and present their predictions to the class.

This guide links the Animal Nation unit to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for first graders. Animal Nation is a science unit that allows students to explore animals and their needs for survival. Though a science unit, Animal Nation also leads students to practice skills in the other subject areas of English language arts, mathematics, and social studies. For example, students use writing as a tool for learning and research, which the English Language Arts and Reading TEKS cover; students display data in an organized form, which the Mathematics TEKS cover; and use critical thinking skills, which the Social Studies TEKS cover. The following document includes the applicable TEKS and the details of the Animal Nation unit. The final section of this document presents the applicable Texas College and Career Readiness Standards adopted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) on January 24, 2008.

Phase I. Learning Experiences

  1. Read a book to introduce the animal unit. Possible books include What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judy Barrett, or Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft.
  2. Conduct a class survey to determine the students’ favorite animals. Show the results in a chart or graph.
  3. Have students list several animals, or use the animals that came up in the survey. Make available a number of illustrated books and magazines about animals. Students should identify pictures of the animals listed/discussed in small groups or individually. As a large group, discuss characteristics of the animals:
    • What type of animal is it (e.g., reptile, mammal, amphibian)?
    • Describe the animal’s natural habitat.
    • What does the animal eat?
    • How does the animal get around (e.g., fly, walk)?

    Discuss characteristics as ways to identify and classify animals. Use these characteristics to classify the animals previously listed. (Some classifications can include size, body coverings, habitat, what they eat, and their relationships to humans.)
  4. Discuss the basic needs of any living thing and how they can be met. You can start with people and move to pets before covering less familiar animals. In small groups, students will study an animal. They can choose the animal, or you can assign it. Ask the small groups to describe their animal’s characteristics and list their animal’s basic needs and how they are met.
  5. (Optional) Culture some brine shrimp in the classroom. Make up several batches with different salinities in the water. This experiment could be expanded to include other variables, such as light and temperature variations. Record your observations:
    • How many hatch?
    • What are the differences in the shrimp’s level of activity?
    • How big do they get?
    • How long do they live?

Phase II. Independent Research

A. Research process

  1. Selecting a topic. Each student will choose an animal to research.
  2. Asking guiding questions. Once students have selected an animal, each student should think of three to five guiding questions, such as:
    • What are the animal’s survival needs?
    • What are the animal’s strengths and weaknesses?
    • What could happen to the animal if their needs are not met?
  3. Creating a research proposal. You can use the attached worksheet as a study aid. Each student should carry out a scientific research process:
    • Identify the animal he/she will study
    • List the guiding questions he/she will investigate
    • Describe his/her hypotheses to the guiding questions
    • Discuss the steps in the research process he/she will use to find out the answers to the guiding questions
  4. Conducting the research. Students will use books and the Internet to gather information needed on their animals. Students will need to take notes on their findings in order to create their animal report.
  5. Sharing findings. As part of their research, students can create a Who Am I? game to show what they have learned about the animals they studied. Provide students with 10 note cards apiece and have them write 10 facts about their animals. Students can present their games to the class or to small groups. Encourage other students to guess the animal based on the facts.

    Students may wish to incorporate answers to these questions in their Who Am I? game or in their final product:
    • Where does your animal live?
    • What does your animal eat?
    • What is unique about your animal?
    • How does your animal look?
    • Does your animal depend on other animals? What are threats to your animal?
    • What noises does your animal make?
    • How would the world be different if your animal didn’t exist?
  6. B. The product

    Each student will create an animal report that answers questions, such as what are the animal’s strengths and where will it live in the future. Included in the report will be a drawing of their animal, its strengths, habitat, how its needs are met, and their prediction of what will happen to the animal in the future.

    C. Communication

    Each student will present to the class what he/she has learned, as well as the completed animal report. The audience should be given time for questions and answers. The Q&A session should be impromptu and unscripted in order to reflect student learning accurately.

    D. A completed project consists of

    1. a research proposal;
    2. a research log, note cards, and/or resource process sheets;
    3. the animal report, including references or works cited; and
    4. videotape or audiotape of the class presentation, including the Q&A session.
Back to top.