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Biome Discovery Expedition

Subjects: Ed. Technology; Science: Life; Social Science: Geography
Grades: 3-5, 6-8

Brief Description

Students use the Internet to discover similarities and differences among biomes. As zoo planners, students depart on an expedition and share experiences in many ways; they return with a decision on which biome the city zoo should construct as well as which plants and animals to include in it.


  • Students learn about the biomes of the world, plant and animal life, and weather.
  • Students develop plans to defend the decisions they make about which biome to build at the local zoo.


animals, biome, design, nature, plan, plants, regions, zoo

Materials Needed

  • computers with Internet access
  • digital camera or scanner
  • origami instructions for making animals
  • colorful copy paper
  • old maps from National Geographic magazines and other sources
  • construction paper
  • cardstock and spools
  • old socks, buttons, sticky paper, fabric paints, paper plates and dowels, other art supplies

Lesson Plan

Say: Students, the director of the local zoo has chosen you to head a team of experts to research which biome the zoo should build next. You and your teammates will travel to the biomes of the world and make a decision about which biome to construct. Upon your return, you will bring a 3-D model of your biome, an animal that lives in it, and a photo of yourself taken in the biome.
  • Begin by listing the biomes of the world. Ask students to discuss what they know and would like to learn about each, using a KWL chart.
  • Organize students into small groups, and have them web similarities and differences in animal ears, tails, beaks, and feet -- and how each trait is related to an animal's environment.
  • Discuss animal sounds and how they help animals survive.

Have students visit zoo and biome Web sites to learn more about animals and how they survive and adapt. Begin with a visit to this site to learn what the biomes are and a brief overview of each:
Biomes of the World

Students spend several days exploring other Web resources, including those listed below. They record information learned in the KWL charts and diagrams they have already begun.

Animal Sounds
Sounds of the World's Animals

Wildlife Conservation Society
Click Kids Go Wild .

Animal Habitats
Schoolyard Habitats

Animal Tracks
Nature Gallery

Animals of the Rainforest
What's It Like Where You Live? (Rainforest)
Fact Sheet: Rainforest Action Network

What's It Like Where You Live? (Desert)
Desert Biome

Grasslands Biome
What Is It Like Where You Live? (Grasslands)
Grassland Explorer

Taiga Biome
What's It Like Where You Live? (Taiga)

What's It Like Where You Live? (Tundra)
Tundra 5

What's It Like Where You Live? (Marine Ecosystems)
What's It Like Where You Live? (Freshwater Ecosystems)
On the Line: Oceans
Pond Explorer

What's It Like Where You Live? (Temperate Deciduous Forest)
World Book Cyber Camp Nature Walk
Woodland Explorer

Biomes of the World: Chaparral

Biomes of the World: Tropical Savanna

Biomes of the World: Alpine

Students complete the following activities away from the computer:

  • Students use old maps to create folders.
    • Fold outer edges in to create a 9- by 11-inch folder.
    • Fold up the bottom edges to make 5-inch-deep pockets.
    • Fold in half and laminate for added durability.
    • Mark any places you have visited using a brightly colored marker or sticky circle.
  • Students create animal puppets that inhabits the biome of their choice. They use old socks, buttons, sticky paper, beads, fabric paint, and other art supplies to create animal face puppets, using paper plates and dowels.
  • Divide students into three groups. Group 1 will act as defenseless animals, such as ground squirrels and rabbits. Group 2 will be animals that prey on such animals in Group 1; for example, foxes, hawks, and coyotes. Group 3 will be large predators, such as bears, lions, or eagles. Group 3 should have the fewest students in it. Take the students outdoors. Give Group 1 students a head start before releasing Group 2 students. Group 2 students chase after Group 1 students in a game of "predator tag." Finally, release the small group of large predators. When tagged, a student is out. See which animals survive the longest and discuss why. As the game continues, throw in a twist of nature by telling one of the large predators that they have come down with a disease or that they have been shot or trapped by humans.
  • Students prepare speeches for their puppets, telling the group why the biome should be built at the zoo and how they survive in that specific environment.
  • Students collect props for a chosen biome, such safari clothing for the savanna. Take digital pictures of students with props. Have each choose a biome picture and place it in a drawing program with the digital picture alongside. Size the images so they look realistic. Place the digital pictures in a paint program, and lasso the students' bodies. Place them with the biome image in a new paint document. Print on cardstock to show realistic photos. Display.
  • Students create dioramas from boxes or tioramas from square sheets of paper. (Fold the square diagonally both ways. Open it and cut to the center only along one fold. Overlap two sides to form a three-sided shape -- a tiorama. Before gluing overlapping sides, students should decorate the tioramas with crayons, markers, and pop-up shapes.) Display the end results.
  • Students create spool animals by placing an animal head on one end of an empty thread spool; the animal tail-end and foot base should be on the other end of the spool. Make sure bases are the same height so spool animals will rest level. Students the draw head ends and the tail ends on heavy cardstock. Yarn tails can be added for monkeys, lions, and other animals that have tails.
  • Students create origami animals or birds by folding square paper. They should label each animal with the name of its biome.
  • Students use computers or drawing paper to create posters or ad campaigns to save an endangered animal. Mount posters on black construction paper and display.
  • Discuss information students add to their charts as the lesson progresses.
  • Invite parents and other classes to view the displays and vote for the biome they think would be the most interesting place to live or visit.


Assess students on
  • the realistic qualities of dioramas or tioramas. Do they portray animals and plants actually located within the biomes?
  • the way they explain, from an animal's point of view, why a particular biome should be built (puppet activity).
  • cooperation (teacher observation).
  • following technical directions.
  • time on task (teacher observation).
  • originality and reasoning (endangered animal poster).
  • group discussions

Submitted By

VaReane Heese, Springfield Elementary, Springfield, Nebraska

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