I use this short video to demonstrate to students that there are some very unusual looking animals in the world! I want them to be creative in this activity, but within the realm of possibility. As strange looking as the fish with the lipstick red lips is, for example, it is possible. A fish with fur, on the other hand, is not possible. The students and I briefly discuss why these animals are possible.
In the lesson Colorful Clams I laid the preliminary groundwork for the idea that something as seemingly simple as coloration can help or hinder an animal's survival. In this lesson, they will incorporate the idea of a physical trait that helps the animal survive into designing their own animals. I ask them to draw a picture of an animal that can survive in the following conditions:
I let them draw for perhaps 20 minutes in class and during this time I hold them very accountable for verbally explaining their thinking. I don't like to stifle creativity but I do set some parameters for this assignment. Their animal needs to be something that could really exist. I do not allow antlers on jackrabbits (jackalopes are a joke) or other physical characteristics that would be unsupportable in the real world. As I confer with students, I ask them, "Tell me about your animal's legs/coloration/(feature) and how this helps it survive in its environment."
Students still struggle to find the line between imaginary and impossible. These students, who created the spotted longtail, the long tailed, and the razor tailed dog all did well creating animals that weren't beyond the bounds of reality. As you can see from these initial stage papers, they needed prompting to add in more details. I may develop an organizer to help them with this and will post that online before the start of the next school year.
Students share their animal creations with their peers. Their classmates need to look specifically for: