Summary: Classroom specimens or “pets” can provide meaningful learning experiences for students because the animals’ close proximity allows students to make repeated observations and to practice the responsibility of caring for other living creatures. This focus area explores some of the practical considerations and teachable moments that relate to the use of aquatic wildlife and other small animals in classroom settings.
Concepts to teach: Habitat, stewardship, sustainability
Goals: Students learn about an animal species’ habitat requirements, and provide an appropriate environment for a live specimen in the classroom. Students identify physical and behavioral adaptations of the animal to its environment, and recognize benefits and limitations of these adaptations.
S3.2L.1, S4.2L.1, S5.2L.1
- Determine the components of a local animal species’ habitat.
- Set up a classroom habitat for the organism.
- Use classroom live animal specimens to answer inquiry questions students generate about adaptations, food chains, life cycles, etc.
Activity Links and Resources:
- Before you consider bringing live animals into the classroom, consult this brochure from ODFW: ODFW Wildlife in the Classroom Brochure
- Salmon Eggs in the Classroom
- Observing Mealworms and Earthworms—Designed by the Utah Education Network for 5th grade science students, this lesson plan contains ideas for a variety of inquiry activities that can be conducted with small organisms in the classroom.
- Crayfish in the Classroom
- How to use classroom animals to spark life science inquiry—This article from LessonPlanet.com lists several ideas for inquiry projects using live animals in the classroom.
- Create a KWL chart for the classroom animal. Students ask questions that can be tested in class, they make observations, and report their findings. Students keep a daily journal documenting what is going on in the classroom habitat.