- Big Ideas
- Essential Questions
- Content Outcomes Addressed
- Standards Addressed
- Additional Resources
- Pre- and Post-Assessment
- Investigation 1: Using an Ethogram to Observe Hippos
- Investigation 2: Creating an Ethogram for an Animal in Your Environment
- Using Ethograms You Created to Observe Animals in Their Habitats
- Observing the activities of different animals can inform about the lifestyle of each animal.
- The daily activities of animals have many similarities to those of humans.
- Researchers study the behavior of animals using data collection tools such as census,ethograms, and time budgets.
- How do the daily activities of animals inform scientists about their living habits and characteristics?
- How are the daily activities of animals similar to and different from the daily activities of humans?
- What tools do scientists use to study the living habits and characteristics of animals?
Content Outcomes Addressed
- Students will understand how different animals spend their time and why they spend their time that way.
- Students will understand the similarities and differences between human and animal daily activities.
- Students will be able to build their own ethogram and complete it based on observations.
- Students will be able to analyze raw data and arrive at conclusions about an animal using their analysis and data.
- Students will be able to complete a census and a time budget.
- Disciplinary Core Ideas: ESS3.A (K-2), LS1.A (K-2) (3-5), LS1.B (K-2) (6-8), LS1.C (K-2) (3-5), LS1.D (K-2) (3-5) (6-8), LS2.A (3-5) (6-8), LS2.D (3-5) (9-12), LS3.A/B (K-2) (3-5), LS4.C (K-2) (3-5), LS4.D (K-2) (3-5)
- Science and Engineering Practices: 1,3-5, 8
- Crosscutting Concepts: 1, 6
- Writing: W.K.2, W.K.3, W.K.7, W.K.8, W.1.2, W.1.3, W.1.7, W.1.8, W.2.2, W.2.3, W.2.8, W.3.2, W.3.3, W.3.4, W.3.7, W.3.8, W.4.2, W.4.3, W.4.4, W.4.7, W.5.2, W.5.3, W.5.7, W.5.8, W.6.2, W.6.3, W.7.2, W.7.3, W.8.2, W.8.3
- Speaking and Listening: SL.K.3, SL.K.5, SL.K.6, SL.1.1, SL.1.2, SL.1.4, SL.1.5, SL.1.6, SL.2.1, SL.2.2, SL.2.4, SL.2.6, SL3.1, SL.3.3, SL.3.4, SL.3.6, SL.4.1., SL.4.4, SL.4.6, SL.5.1, SL.5.4, SL.6.1, SL.6.4, SL.7.1, SL.7.4, SL.8.1, SL.8.4
- Mathematical Practice: MP.2, MP.3, MP.4, MP.5
- Number & Operations: 4.NF.6, 4.NF.7
- Measurement & Data: 1.MD.4, 2.MD.9, 2.MD.10
- Ratios & Proportions: 6.RP.1, 6.RP.2
National Geography Standards: 4, 8
(Excerpt from Animal Behavior Society and Education Website: http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/web/education.php)
Humans have always been interested in animals and their behavior. During our early history, much of this interest was grounded in practical need. Animals provided an important source of food, so a thorough, working knowledge of how potential food items behaved was extremely important to successful hunting. Today, people are still drawn to animals—we surround ourselves with them. We keep them in our houses, we watch them for entertainment and recreation, we use them to do work, we raise them for food and clothing, we hunt them, we use them to test products, and we use them to answer questions in an attempt to improve the human condition.
Most people assume that animals are just like us, and so endow animals with human feelings and emotions. We say our dogs act “guilty” when we find them on our beds, or our cats are “jealous” of our children. We think of our pets as members of our families, and of wild animals as crafty or cruel or courageous. Although such interpretations of an animal’s behavior are acceptable and even useful for most people, they also create some problems. Most of them boil down to one assumption: Animals are “just like us.” Why is that a problem? Because animals, like humans, are unique—they aren’t “just like us.” In some ways we are like other animals, and in other ways we are very different from them. A deeper understanding of animals requires us to think of them as organisms with their own attributes. Instead of assuming that animals “thinklike us,” we must instead “think like them” if we’re going to understand them. And, we must be willing to assume, at least for the moment, that animal “thinking” is very different from human thinking.
A few people dedicate their lives to understanding animal behavior, not because they need to know about animals to do their jobs, but because it is their job to understand animals. These people use scientific methods to study the behavior of animals, and they are highly trained in specific fields such as biology, psychology, and anthropology. Animal behaviorists are an extremely diverse lot—men and women of many different nationalities, races, and ethnic origins; scientists trained in many different fields of scientific inquiry, but they have one thing in common: an interest in and a curiosity about how and why animals do what they do.
Animal behavior has the potential to be very important in our everyday lives. We depend on animals in so many ways, but so few of us understand animals on their own terms. For this reason, educated people should be aware of the information provided by animal behaviorists and their ways of doing things. Also, animal behavior is an excellent example of the workings of science. The scientific study of animal behavior uses the same principles as the other sciences and applies them to a group of organisms that are simultaneously familiar and mysterious. Our society is increasingly driven by scientific information and methods, so it is crucial for educated people to understand the “scientific method.” And finally, in our experience, animal behavior is interesting and fun for students to study. Exercises based on the study of animal behavior are therefore an excellent way to motivate students, to get them to think critically, and to show them the power and intrigue of science as well as its limits and pitfalls.
- nocturnal: active by night; asleep or hiding by day
- diurnal: active by day; asleep or hiding by night
- crepuscular: active at twilight and dawn; asleep or hiding during day and night
- ethogram: a list of an animal’s observed behaviors
- census: a count of the number of animals in an area
- time budget: a record of how much time an organism spends at various activities
Pre- and Post-Assessment
Assess prior knowledge by asking students to respond in writing and pictures to the question: Pick an animal that you encounter in your daily life, and discuss how that animal’s daily routine compares to yours. Have students repeat this activity after the unit of study.
- Humans are not animals.
- All animals share the same or similar behaviors. (This could lead to the idea that these behaviors differentiate humans from animals, rather than the more specified notion that different behaviors among animals can be used to delineate different characteristics—diurnal, nocturnal, etc.)
- Specific activities are dominant for all animals (e.g. all animals spend most of their time hunting for food).
Investigation 1: Using an Ethogram to Observe Hippos
What is an ethogram, and how is it used by scientists?
- Computer to access Mpala Live!
- Hippopotamus Ethogram (print out from Resources, above right)
- Have each student make a list of all of the different activities he/she does during a typical 24-hour day.
- Have students share out the activities they thought of. Make a list of the activities being shared on the board.
- Have students group the activities into categories.
- Introduce and define “ethogram.”
- Pass out copies of the Hippopotamus Ethogram. Have students read and ask questions.
- Open Mpala Live! and allow students an opportunity to observe hippos using the Live Cam and to fill out the ethogram. This activity is somewhat dependent on time of day and could also be assigned for homework.
- How do hippos move?
- What do they sound like?
- Compare a hippo with a human. How are they the same? How are they different?
- What activities were most common during the morning? At mid-day? During the afternoon?
Investigation 2: Creating an Ethogram for an Animal in Your Environment
What are the different types of activities engaged in by animals?
- Hippopotamus ethogram to use as guideline (optional)
- Paper and pencil
- Timer or watch
- Binoculars (optional)
- Options: Instead of going outside, teachers may provide students with rodents, rabbits etc., to observe or with Internet access to find animals to observe.
- Students should think about what they were looking for and observing while watching the hippos. Brainstorm and write questions that can be asked while observing and that will be useful in understanding the animal and its behavior (e.g., What is the habitat like? Am I watching a male or a female, and how do I know? What sounds am I hearing?)
- Have the students share their questions.
- Have the students choose an animal (bird, squirrel, etc.) that can be easily observed in their environment.
- Students should go outside to observe their chosen animal. Have the students observe for 30 minutes to an hour. If possible, make sure that the students observe different individuals of the same species.
- While observing, the students should list any behaviors that they see. In order to encourage students to be careful in their observation and to list specific examples (scratching against bark v. grooming), teachers may encourage students to have a certain number of observed behaviors, such as 20 - 25 (depends on time constraint and availability of animals).
- (Day 2): Have the students categorize their observed behaviors (grooming, feeding, etc.). Students may work in groups according to the animals they observed.
- The final product should be useable ethograms for the animals observed.
Alternative Lesson Plan
Instead of creating an ethogram from first-hand observation, students may be able to create one through research on the Internet. Students should choose an animal that can be readily observed and researched on the Internet.
Using Ethograms You Created to Observe Animals in Their Habitats
What can you learn about specific animals by observing them in their natural habitat?
- An ethogram (the hippopotamus ethogram can be used as a guideline)
- Census form (print out from Resources, above right)
- Time budget form (print out from Resources, above right)
- An outdoor observing space (preferably for an extended, unbroken period of time)
- Take students to an area where they can safely observe animals.
- Have all students observe an animal. This can either be the animal they created an ethogram for or a different animal, using one of their classmate’s ethograms.
- Each student should complete an ethogram, a census sheet, and a time budget (see Resources, above right).
- The teacher will keep time and let the students know when to start and when 3 minutes have passed, then 6 minutes, then 9 minutes, etc. Each time the teacher calls out “Start”, “3 minutes,” “6 minutes,” etc., the students should mark the box with the letter in the code at the bottom that describes what activity the animal is engaged in. (Younger students can complete 15 minutes for one animal. Older students can do three animals at a time by scanning all three and writing down the code for the activity each is seen doing when the time is called out.)
- By doing time budgets at different times of the day, a complete picture of the animal’s daily activities can be seen.
- At the end of the project, younger students should decide which activity is the most common at different times of the day. Older students can be taught how to compute percentages. For example, if a zebra spends 12 minutes out of 15 grazing, they would spend 12/15 = 4/5 = 80/100 = 80 percent of the time grazing.
- How does the animal you observed move?
- What does it sound like?
- Compare your animal with another animal in the habitat. How are they the same? How are they similar? How are they different?
- Compare your animal with a human. How are they the same? How are they similar? How are they different?
- What animals live or co-exist with your animal? Which are predators? Which are prey? Which co-exist but do not interact?
- What activities were most common during the morning? At mid-day? During the afternoon?
- Write a Day in the Life of story: Students should write a story in the first person about the animal that they spent time studying and draw a picture of that animal in its habitat. (See also Extension 2: Species on the Edge)
- Presentation: Students can present on a specific animal. They should present their ethogram, census, and time budget as well as their answers to the discussion questions.
1. On Guard! (Zebra Herd Game)
Explain that zebras are rather fast animals and can run up to 40 miles per hour (64 kph). Even so, sometimes they are caught by predators. To help to protect themselves and each other, zebras usually stay together as a herd.
Have your students stand in a big circle to mark the boundary of the game. Select two students to be zebras. Each zebra attaches a clothespin to its back. The two zebras then stand in the center of the circle. The teacher walks around the outside of the circle and taps one student on the back. That student becomes a lion and attempts to sneak up on the zebras and steal one of their clothespins. If one of the zebras can call the name of the student who is the lion before he or she steals a clothespin, they both get to stay in the center. If the lion successfully steals the clothespin, he or she replaces the zebra whose clothespin was stolen, and that student joins the circle. Play until every student has had a chance to be a zebra.
- Along with being vigilant, zebras also need to eat. To simulate grazing, place objects (stones, coins, pieces of paper) around on the floor and have the zebras pick them up.
- Start with one zebra that will graze while being vigilant.
- Then have two zebras. Do they each become more efficient at grazing? Do they share the role of being vigilant?
- Next try three zebras, then four. The students should see that the more zebras there are, the more time they get to graze because they can take turns being vigilant. Also, the number of times a lion successfully grabs a clothespin should go down. Older students could create a graph of number of zebras vs. clothespins collected and number of zebras vs. number of times a lion is prevented from stealing a clothespin.
- Start with one lion, but then try it with two or three. Lions often hunt in groups.
2. Species on the Edge
This is a competition held in New Jersey for 5th graders, but it is also something that could be fun to stage in your own classroom, school, or district. You can find details at http://www.conservewildlifenj.org/education/edge/.