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Ecology: Life in Dry Lands - A Look at Desert Biomes

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Objectives:

  • The students will be able to explain the functions of the skin.

  • The students will be able to describe the three layers of skin.

  • The students will be able to describe some pathologies of the integumentary system.

  • The students will be able to explain the importance of keeping the skin clean.

Questions that encompasses the objective:

  • Think about your skin. Why do you think we have skin?  

Prepare the Learner: Activating Prior Knowledge. 

How will students prior knowledge be activated?

Warm up by asking students:

  • What do you know about your skin?

Common Core State Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.1

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.1 B

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.4

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.2.2

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.2

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.2 B

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.1

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.4

Materials and Free Resources to Download for this Lesson: 

**Students need to have access to information sources. If computers are available for use, allow the students to look up information on the computer. If not, allow the students to use encyclopedias or other books. Prior to the start of the lesson, the teacher could have the students choose an animal. The teacher could then provide information sheets about the student’s chosen animal**

Input:
What is the most important content in this lesson?
To reach this lesson’s objective, students need to understand:

  • The characteristics of the desert biome.

  • The plants and animals that live in the desert biome.

  • How plants and animals of the desert survive in the environment.

  • The location of the ten largest deserts of the world.

How will the learning of this content be facilitated?

  • The teacher will begin the class by showing the video “The Dunes of Namibia by Drone” (source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APcJlUmWb0w). The video is about two minutes long and gives an aerial view of the Namib Desert in Southwestern Africa. After the video, the teacher should begin a discussion about the video/ the student’s observations of the video.

  • Next, the teacher should do a quick review of the Earth’s biomes.

  • Next, the teacher should introduce the “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” activity. The teacher will read 10 desert facts—5 of which are true and 5 of which are false. After reading each card, the teacher should ask the students if it deserves a “thumbs up” (meaning what was read is true) or if it deserves a “thumbs down” (meaning what was read is false).

    • During the day, the desert is very hot. At night, the desert gets very cold (TRUE)

    • Antarctica does not have a desert. (FALSE)

    • Half of the Earth is covered with deserts. (FALSE)

    • Antarctica is the largest desert in the world. (TRUE)

    • Many desert animals are nocturnal—they sleep during the day and are up at night. (TRUE)

    • You can only find deserts in Africa. (FALSE)

    • Many desert plants store water in their stems because it is so hot. (TRUE)

    • Deserts have a lot of vegetation. (FALSE)

    • Many desert animals store fat in one part of their body because the temperature is so hot. (TRUE)

    • It never rains in the desert. (FALSE)

Information Sources:

http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/earth/desert.html

http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/earth/desert.html

  • Next, the teacher will hand out the worksheet packet “The Desert Biome” If it is possible, project each worksheet of the packet onto the board using a projector or put into a PowerPoint document and project. The teacher should begin with the “Life in the Desert” worksheet. As the teacher explains, the students should fill in the blank spaces on their worksheet. From this activity, the students will learn about the desert biome.

**The student worksheet does not contain all of this information. Use this as a guide to help explain the desert biome more in depth to the students**

  • Deserts are areas that are very dry and have very little rainfall.

  • Deserts receive less than 16 inches of rain a year.

  • 1/3 of the Earth’s surface is covered with deserts.

  • 20% of the Earth’s deserts are covered in sand.

  • Deserts are found on every continent, except Europe. Even Antarctica has a desert—deserts in Antarctica are very cold and have little vegetation. Temperatures in the Antarctica Desert can reach to -115°F.

  • Sand or dust storms can be very dangerous—blowing sand/ dust over a mile high and creating a very thick dust that it is dangerous to breath in.

  • Deserts are divided into four categories: hot and dry; semiarid; coastal; cold

Hot & Dry Regions

  • Soil of the desert is very coarse and dry; sand is common in the desert.

  • During the day, temperatures can reach over 100°F and can drop to below 32°F at night.

  • These deserts are very dry and have low humidity. There is no blanket for insulation for the ground. The ground takes in the heat during the day, but loses it at night when the sun goes down.

  • The largest desert in the world is the Antarctica Desert, located in the South Pole.

Semiarid Regions

  • Found in Utah and Montana (USA), Greenland, Russia, northern Asia.

  • Soil is sandy with small pieces of rocks.

Coastal Regions

  • Located in South and Central America.

  • Soil is spongy and fine.

Cold Regions

  • Located in the North and South Poles, North America, and Greenland.

  • Cold deserts receive a lot of rain and snow during the winter.

  • In these regions, you can find penguins, seals, polar bears, etc.

  • Next, the teacher should review the “Who Lives in the Desert?” worksheet. As the teacher explains, the students should fill in the blank spaces on their worksheet. From this activity, the students will learn about the animals and plants of the desert.

**The student worksheet does not contain all of this information. Use this as a guide to help explain the animals and plants of the desert more in depth to the students**

  • Many desert animals are nocturnal. They are awake during the night and sleep most of the day. The animals are nocturnal because of the hot temperatures during the day.

  • Many animals in the desert have adapted to the environment. They have learned to store fat in one spot on their body. They can store water in the body; such as the camel, who can store water in his hump.

  • Desert mice take the spines from cacti and create nests to protect themselves from predators.

  • Many animals create tunnels or burrows to protect themselves from the heat, blowing sand (especially during sandstorms), and predators.

  • Cactus and other plants can store water in their stems.

  • Tall trees cannot live in the desert because they cannot store water in their trunks.

  • Trees are not close together, but share a root system that helps to gather rainfall.

  • Animals that can be found in the desert include: elks, camels, roadrunners, scorpions, spiny mice, gophers, prairie dogs, and jackals.

  • Plants that can be found in the desert include: cacti (all varieties), Joshua trees, ocotillo, Creosote bush, and varieties of desert grass

Information Sources [for both worksheets]:

http://www.softschools.com/facts/biomes/desert_biome_facts/167/

http://www.ducksters.com/science/ecosystems/desert_biome.php

http://kids.nceas.ucsb.edu/biomes/desert.html

http://www.kidzworld.com/article/1985-biomes-of-the-world-the-desert

http://www.desertusa.com/animals.html

http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/desert_plant_page.htm

  • Lastly, the teacher should review the “Ten Largest Deserts of the World” worksheet. The teacher should have the students look at the pictures of each desert and have a short discussion about the pictures.

**Refer to the teacher copy of the worksheet**

Information Source:

http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/10-largest-deserts-in-the-world.html

  • After the worksheet is completed, the students will participate in an activity called “Desert Interview”. The students will choose an animal or plant that lives in the desert. Each student will get a “Desert Interview” worksheet. The students will use the information they have about their animal (refer to the “Materials” section about how the information can be obtained) to fill out their worksheet/ “interview” their animal or plant. Allow the students to work for about 20 minutes. Once 20 minutes is over, reconvene and discuss the projects.

**This can be an assignment/project that is graded or presented to the class**

  • The final assessment will be for the students to answer the question:

Think about what you learned in class today. What are some characteristics of the desert? How do animals and plants survive in the desert? Are deserts found on every continent? Are all deserts hot and dry? Name one animal and one plant you can find in the desert and explain how it has adapted to survive in the desert.

Time/Application
3-5 minutes
Guided Introduction

Review the class/ agenda with the students:

  • Introductory Video: “The Dunes of Namibia by Drone” by Rob Sall

  • “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” activity

  • Desert discussion

  • “The Desert Biome” worksheet packet

  • Activity: “Classifying Objects”

  • Discussion of Activity

  • Independent Assessment

10 minutes

Introductory Activity:

  • The teacher should show the video: “The Dunes of Namibia by Drone” by Rob Sall

  • After the video, review the biomes briefly and then transition into the desert biome.

  • “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” activity—read the facts to the students. If the students think the fact is true, they must give a “thumbs up”; false, a “thumbs down”.

10 Minutes

Desert Biome Worksheet Packet

  • Give each student a “Desert Biome” worksheet packet.

  • Project each page of the worksheet onto the board either through a projector or PowerPoint presentation.

  • Students will fill in the blanks on their worksheets as the teacher explains.

20 Minutes

Activity: “Desert Interview”

  • Give each student a “Desert Interview” worksheet.

  • Have the students use the information about their plant or animal and complete their worksheet/ “interview” their plant or animal.

  • At the end of 20 minutes, have the students return to their desks and discuss the activity.

Closure/Assessment
15 minutes

  • As an independent assessment, the students will answer the question:  

Think about what you learned in class today. What are some characteristics of the desert? How do animals and plants survive in the desert? Are deserts found on every continent? Are all deserts hot and dry? Name one animal and one plant you can find in the desert and explain how it has adapted to survive in the desert.

  • Appropriate answers should include (but will vary):

Characteristics of the desert include hot and dry climate, sand, and very little rainfall. Animals and plants that live in the desert have learned to adapt to the conditions. Animals sleep during the day and are awake at night so that they do not experience the extremely hot temperature. Animals store fat in one part of their body and can also store water. Animals also create burrows or tunnels underground, where it is cooler. Plants can store water in their stems and have elaborate root systems that help to collect rainfall. Deserts can be divided into four regions: hot and dry; semiarid; coastal; cold. Deserts are found on every continent except Europe. Not all deserts are hot and dry; deserts in the North and South Poles are very cold. Desert animal and plant will vary. 

  • If there is additional time, discuss any questions the students may have.


Individualized Instruction/Scaffolding

English Language Learners will be supported in this lesson through data-based heterogeneous grouping, verbal and written repetition of new vocabulary words, and multiple representation of vocabulary words through printed images and video.

Ecosystems, Biomes, and Habitats PowerPoint and Activities
Classifying Animals PowerPoint & Activities