Animal science activity plans for classroom pet gerbil (Primary Grades)

Overview

This investigation explores animals, their characteristics (properties), what they need to be healthy, and the responsibility of pet owners to care for them and other animals of the Earth.

Concepts included but are not limited to:

  1. Animals have basic needs that must be met in the wild or as pets.
  2. Living and nonliving objects can be classified by their characteristics (properties).
  3. Animals have adapted to survive in different biomes. (migrating, hibernating, seeking or creating shelter, body parts, food they eat …).
  4. We can use what we learn (about animals and their needs) in class in real life.

Related resources

Concepts & outcomes threaded to science dimensions

Categories/Dimensions of Science Concepts Activities Outcomes as Assessment Indicator
Inquiry Objects can be grouped by properties. We can learn by observing and thinking.
  • Gerbil Observation
  • Classification of animals
Identify characteristics of gerbils used to classify them as mammals and gerbils. Hair, warm blooded, bear live young, nurse their young, diurnal, ...
Physical Science Understanding the physical world helps us understand how animals interact with environmental factors and the consequences. Physical needs of animals are supplied as environmental factors.  
Life Science Animals have basic needs that must be met in the wild, zoo, or as pets (water, food, space, temperature, shelter, exercise, light/dark).
  • Gerbil Observation
  • What do animals eat and drink?
Describe the needs of animals. Such as gerbils need water, air, food, and a an optimal temperature range.
Earth Science Seasons are cyclical and can cause extreme weather differences. Seasonal adaptations Describe the relationship of climate to the characteristics of animals that inhabit them. Gerbils live naturally in arid habitats. Originally Mongolia. Later Asia and Africa. They are mammals so they can adapt to different temperatures by controling their body temperature. Their fat cells store water, their kidneys remove less water than other animals, and they eat foods that have high water content.
Technology Technology changes the way humans interact with animals. Technology timeline   Describe gerbils as being originally from Mongolia and been transported around the world by humans with their technology.
Personal and Social We can use what we learn (about animals and their needs) in class in real life.
  • Gerbil Observation
  • Responsibilities for pets
Care for the gerbil when when scheduled.
History and Nature of Science Human interactions with animals has changed over the years. Technology timeline   Know that people didn't always have pets. That animals were probably originally kept as a handi food source and the idea of animals as pets or raising animals as pets requires probably developed after agriculture was established. Later science was used to selectively breed animals for agriculture and what was learned from that was applied to raising pets with certain traits. Hunting, tame, herding, long hair, short hair, ...
Systems, order, and organization
  • Objects can be grouped by properties.
  • Living and nonliving objects can be classified by their properties.
Classification of animals by their properties and their needs. Hamsters are rodents which are mammals which have hair, bear live young, nurse their young, are warm blooded, ..
Evidence, models, and explanations
  • We can learn by observing and thinking.
  • Observations can be used to understand the world and answer questions.
  • Pictures can be used to help remember and explain ideas.
  • Gerbil Observation
  • Drawing animals
  • Photographing animals
  • Sharing information
  • Use observations to support their explanations with logical reasoning.
  • Use observations to associate cause and effect and use explanations to explain change.
  • Explain how diagrams and pictures assist.
Constancy, change, and measurement
  • Different animals have similar and different properties.
  • Properties of animals that help them survive can be observed in zoo animals even if zoo animals are being cared for by humans.
  • Animals change as they grow.
  • Animals change as they live withsome changes being good for their health and others being bad.
  • Humans interactions with animals can cause them to change.
Classification of animals Animal habitat
  • Recognize that all hamsters are different, but they also have common characteristics thatmake them hamsters.
  • Use observable examples of animal characteristics to support why a specific type of animal belongs to a certain class of animals, (mammal, reptile, amphibian, fish, bird, vertebrae, invertebra)
Evolution and equilibrium Animals have adapted to survive in different biomes. (migrating, hibernating, seeking or creating shelter, body parts, food they eat …).
  • Animal habitat
  • Seasonal adaptations
Recognize animals can change (evolve) over time. Wolves became dogs (evolve) and wolves stayed wolves (equilibrium).
Form and function Animals have features (form) that are related to certain behaviors (function) and serve a purpose for the animal's survival.
  • Animal habitat
  • What do animals eat and drink?
  • Animal movement
Describe how gerbils have adapted to their natural environment. Form - Fat cells, kidneys, eating plants high in water Function - to get the amount of water need to survive.
Attitude I am responsible for the ethical treatment of animals.
  • Discuss how to meet a gerbil's needs.
  • Animal habitat
  • Pet's needs must be met by its owner.
  • Care for the gerbil when assigned or as necessary.
  • Express concern about everyone being responsible for taking care of the gerbil as necessary.

 

Pedagogical ideas

Activity Sequence

May want to review ideas in Living and non living and functions of living organisms planning guide.

  1. Gerbils
  2. Responsibilities for pets
  3. Classification of animals
  4. Animal habitat
  5. What do animals eat and drink?
  6. Animal Movement
  7. Seasonal Adaptations
  8. Zoo trip - (Field trips - suggestions, guidelines, preparation, and check list)

Focus questions

(Field trips - suggestions, guidelines, preparation, and check list)

Activities

Activity - Gerbils

GerbilFocus question What is a gerbil?

Exploration

  1. Ask. What is a gerbil?
  2. Have students brainstorm what they know about a gerbil.
  3. Show students a gerbil
  4. List observations about gerbil and draw pictures of gerbil

Invention

  1. Share pictures and observations
  2. Make inferences about Gerbils needs
  3. List needs on board (water, food, space, temperature, shelter, exercise, light/dark)
  4. Classify needs as necessary or not
  5. Other classification
  6. Make inferences about how to meet a Gerbil's needs
  7. Make a home in the classroom for a pet gerbil.
  8. Ask. How did making and using the pictures helped them?

Discovery - Expansion

  1. Have the learners make a list of their personal needs.
  2. Ask. How their list of needs match the gerbils.
  3. Ask. How a list of their pets at home needs match the gerbils.
  4. Ask. What kinds of things have the same needs?
  5. Discuss how they are meeting the needs of the gerbil each day and what they may want to change.
  6. Discuss weekly. Use it as an agenda item for your class meetings.
  7. Three cheers for all if the needs are being met.

Activity - Responsibilities for pets

Focus question

Exploration

  1. Ask. How do pets' get their needs met?
  2. Ask. What need do pets have?
  3. List all ideas without comment.
  4. Review needs list.
  5. Tell. We want to set a goal to meet the needs of our gerbil.
  6. Ask. How can the gerbil's needs be met? making a plan

Invention

  1. Share student's ideas on how the gerbil's needs can be met.
  2. Ask what would happen if the needs are not met?
  3. Make a plan to care for the gerbil. Include checklist of what to do. Procedures to do each task. And schedule of who will do what and when. Sample of what could be included in the decision making process
    • Make a class table on jobs and days to care for the class gerbil
    • Have students describe and model each procedure needed to care for the gerbil. Cleaning a filling the water bottle, bedding, food, exercise wheel, ...
    • Discuss how they will remember and not forget.

Expansion

  1. Place students in groups, give a picture of a pet, have them discuss the needs of the pet and predict its care and report to class.
  2. Draw a picture of a pet and list the needs and how they could be met.
  3. Ask. How do animals in the wild get their needs met?

Activity - Classification of animals

Focus question

Exploration

  1. Ask. How can animals be grouped?
  2. Ask. What characteristics (properties) do different animals have that can be used to group them?
  3. Give students animal pictures and have them sort them into groups.

Invention

  1. Have the students share how they grouped their animals.
  2. Make a list of the properties that the students used to group their animals.
  3. Have them group the animals another way.
  4. Have them share again and add to the ways to group on the board.
  5. Review the list and tell the students that they grouped animals by their different properties.

Expansion

  1. Make an animal pictures book with the animals' properties identified.
  2. Ask students to explain how properties are used to identify objects. Ask for them to give examples other than animals.
  3. Ask them how the pictures help them.

Animal habitat

Focus question

Exploration

  1. Ask. What characteristics do animals have that help them survive in their environment?
  2. Tell the learners to share what they know about what kinds of animals live in what kinds of places and what characteristics (properties) they have that help them survive.
  3. Have scenes of various biomes and the animals that live there. Video clips, picture books…
  4. Have them list animals, where they live, special conditions of the environment (biome), and adaptations of the animals that live there.

Invention

  1. Share the learner's lists.
  2. Add the properties that apply to the picture book with the animal's properties.
  3. Tell them to look at all the animals that live in the same biomes.
  4. What do they have in common?
  5. Do they have adaptations that help them to survive?
  6. How did that happen?
  7. How have animals adapted to survive in different environments (biomes)?

Expansion

  1. Have students look at pictures of extinct animals and predict why they were not able to survive.

What do animals eat and drink?

Focus question

Exploration

  1. Ask. How do animals eat and drink.
  2. Make a list of their ideas.
  3. Have students observe animal teeth of a meat eater (dog or cat) and a plant eater (calf, goat, lamb). Discuss the differences and ask them to look at their gerbil's teeth and see what they can conclude.
  4. Bring a caterpillar and some leaves on a branch, put in clear cage, cover with cheesecloth, assign jobs to bring new leaves and keep cage clean.

Invention

  1. Share ideas about the caterpillar observation and add all ideas to the students' picture book. If a caterpillar page wasn't in it add one and other animals as students' desire.

Expansion

  1. Have students look for pictures of other animals and find different ways that that they use food and water.
  2. Have the students share their pictures and explain how the organism uses food and water.

Animal Movement

Focus question

How are animals classified by the way they move?

Exploration

  1. Ask. How do animals move.
  2. Make a list of what moves and what the purpose for the movement is.
  3. Observe real live animals or video clips and closely watch what and how body parts move. Include fish-fins, birds-wings, dogs-legs, kangaroo-legs, worm-body, …

Invention

  1. Record all information on the table (animal, body part that moves, movement direction is)
  2. Have students pantomime animals and the class guesses what it is.
  3. Ask students how they classified. Ask them how classification helps them.

Expansion

  1. Have student add to the table as they desire and add more ideas to their book.
  2. Have students pantomime animals and the class guesses what it is.
  3. Ask them what else they could classify and how it would help.

Seasonal Adaptations

Focus question

How do animals survive seasonal changes which can cause extreme weather differences? Adaptations like: migrating, hibernating, seeking shelter, special body parts…

Exploration

  1. Ask. How do animals survive seasonal changes?
  2. Get a bird feeder and place outside of window and keep a fall, winter, and spring table of the bird visitors.
  3. Show students pictures of seasons and have them arrange in appropriate order.
  4. Show students pictures of an animal in its environment during a particular season and see if they can identify properties to suggest how the animal adapts (Birds - Robins Cardinals, butterflies-Monarch, earthworms, deer, fish, frogs, turtles, snakes, people, cows, buffalo).

Invention

  1. Add ideas to a table and animal book.
  2. Ask. What did you record?
  3. What is important you wanted others to know?
  4. What does it tell you about animals?
  5. Ask. Where might each animal be during a particular day (December 21? June 20? March 21? September 20?) and why.

Expansion

  1. Ask. How many times will a bird (Whooping crane) visit Texas in two years?
  2. When will you see Robins? When in the spring? Why?
  3. Ask. If a monarch butterfly flies to Mexico, when do you think it needs to leave here? Why do you think that?

Zoo trip

Focus question

What can we learn at a zoo?

Exploration

  1. Ask. What do you want to see at the zoo?
  2. Will you learn anything like what we have learned in the last weeks?
  3. What do you think would be the same as what they learned in class about the zoo animals?
  4. List the learner's ideas on a table or diagram so all can see.
  5. Go to a zoo and have them draw pictures, take notes, video record animals …

Invention

  1. Discuss zoo trip and the properties of the different animals.
  2. Tell them you want them to make a diagram, table, or story that compares animals. Let them choose from these possibilities.
    • Chart similarities and differences for zoo animals and pets.
    • Chart similarities and differences for zoo animals, pets, and animals in the wild.
    • Chart similarities and differences for different animals in the wild and the zoo.
    • Chart similarities and differences for different animals in the zoo.
  3. Have learners share their work and disucss.
  4. Add ideas to a class picture book as desired.

 

 

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
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