Habitat Hunt

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SWBAT actively collect data from observations of plant and animal life in a simulated environment.

Big Idea

Collecting data is an important part of a science investigation.

Teacher Notes

Activity Description

As one of the culminating lessons of the biodiversity unit, the children will go into the decorated rooms and search for animal and plant life they have studied.  During their search they will check off the names of plants and animals that they spy on a data chart.  After, the discussion focuses on what they found and biodiversity in each of the habitats.


NGSS/Common Core Connections:

The students will be making observations of plants and animals to compare the biodiversity of life in different habitats.  They will also be collecting information on a chart for use in a design project in a future lesson.


  • Woodland Habitat Hunt--1 per child
  • Desert Habitat Hunt-1 per child
  • Coral Reef Habitat Hunt --1 per child
  • Rain Forest Habitat Hunt --1 per child
  • 2 toilet paper rolls per child
  • fancy duct tape--about 2 rolls per classroom; I try to use the ones with animal prints like cheetah or zebra.  There are so many types, pick one that you think your kids would like.
  • hole puncher
  • yarn or cording--enough to make a necklace for the binoculars for each child
  • something hard for the children to put their data charts on such as a clipboard, whiteboard or even just a folder


Advanced prep--Four teachers need to decorate their room with lots of plants and animals found in a given habitat (ocean, rain forest, desert and woodland). Here are some photos of each room so you can get an idea of how we decorated--rain forest job boardrain forest kitecoral reef hanging stuff, coral reef reading nookdesert roomdesert job boardwoodland wall, and  a woodland tree.  If you are not able to do this, you can decorate your own room with photos and pictures from each of the habitats on different days.  If you are collaborating with other teachers, you will also have to make a schedule.  We allotted 15 minutes per room.

Also "binoculars" need to be made.  I simply held the two toilet paper rolls together and then put duct tape around both of them at once.  Then you need to punch holes in each of the rolls and put some yarn through the holes.  Tie at each end so the binocular necklace can go around each child's neck.  In this photo of habitat binoculars, the version I described is one the left, and on the right is a more deluxe version where both tubes were wrapped.  You could have a parent helper make these with the children.

I set up a habitat hunt day with all of the teachers in my team.  There are 8 of us, so 2 people were in charge of each habitat.  We made up a schedule and the children went from room to room with their binoculars, papers and a pencil collecting data in each of the habitats.

Note:  If you are not putting these papers in a science journal, make sure the children save all 4  Habitat Hunt papers for a resource for the culminating activity, making a habitat diorama.


5 minutes

I want to get the children excited about their animal/plant hunt.  I try to make this simulation as much of a "real-life" experience as possible.  Click here for an explanation of simulated experiences.

Remember at the beginning of the year when we learned about what a biologist is and what they do? (Click here for the lesson link) Who can tell me what a biologist is?  What do they do? 

You are all going to be biologists today! You all are going to 4 different habitats to see what types of plant and animal life you can find there. You will have to collect your information, or data.  What do you think would be a good way to collect and save information that you have gained?

I created this chart in advance since it would be too difficult for them to create it on their own.  But I still want them to be able to tell me that a scientist would use a chart or some other way to  to collect data.  This gets them thinking like a scientist.  

I pass out the animal/plant data chart for the rain forest, since we will be starting in my room which is decorated in a rain forest theme.  Click here for a short video on using the chart.  Click here to find out why I use graphic organizers like this particular chart.

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We will be using charts like this one to collect our information.  Each habitat will be on its own chart.  This is the collection chart we will be using for the rain forest. Many of the animal and plant species that we have studied about will be on the chart.  When we visit one of the other classroom habitats and you see one of the plants and animals on the chart, you will need to check the box. Only check the boxes of the species that you actually see, since our information needs to be accurate. Then you will save your 4 charts as a resource for a project will we be doing tomorrow.

As a science practice, I want the children to be collecting data on their own.  This activity lets them do just that.  They also need to know that the information needs to be accurate.

Have you ever seen a TV show where it shows people observing animals that are far away?  What do they use?  Today we are going to be using binoculars to help us be better observers.  

I pull out the binoculars (see teacher notes) and the children clap!  They are so excited!  It's little touches like this that help build the excitement and hook them into the activity--hook, line and sinker!


40 minutes

We then start collecting data in our rain forest room.  The children walk around and observe the plant and animal life in our room.  My room has been decorated this way since the beginning of the school year, but this is the first time they independently have looked upon the environment "with new eyes."

We start our Habitat Hunt in my room.  The children check off the plants and animals that they see somewhere in the room.  Click on Photo 1 and Photo 2 to see my super biologists collecting data. Click here for a short video of the children collecting their data.  Each teacher is like a tour guide.  We answer any questions the children have or help them with the names of the animals, as needed.  We spend 15 minutes collecting data.  When the time is over, they head to another room, and I stay in my room.  The other teachers have the data collecting charts in their respective rooms.  Click for the Coral Reef, Desert and Woodland Habitat Hunt data collecting charts.


10 minutes

After the children have had a chance to investigate each of the habitats they come back to my room.  

I ask them such questions as:

  • How was the Habitat Hunt?  
  • Were you able to find most of the animals?  
  • Were you able to locate the plants in each of the habitats?  
  • Was it hard to find all of the species?  
  • What did they learn about being a biologist? 
  • What did you think about collecting data?  
  • Do you think collecting information on each chart was helpful?
  • Did it keep you organized?
  • What suggestions would you give the teachers for next time?

I ask the children these questions to help them focus on not only the data they collected, but also in the collection of the data itself. In the future, they will have to collect data and record it so they need to think deeper into the activity, not just with the fact gathering, but the process itself.

I have the children place all four of their data collection sheets on top of each other.  Then I have them put their papers inside of a folder that we keep for unfinished work.  We will be using their data for our diorama projects.