Animal Groups - What Purpose Do They Serve?

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Objective

Students will observe and act out a few group behaviors of non-herd animals and then will be able to discuss and write about possible benefits of living in a group.

Big Idea

Animals can defend themselves more effectively when they are in a group.

Engage

30 minutes

I start this lesson with an example of how a species of bats benefit from living in a group. This 1 minute video is titled, "Bats That Prey Together."  I ask students to listen for the reason that the bats stay together and at the end of the video they write the answer in their science notebook.  I want them to really think about advantages and disadvantages of group behavior every time we discuss a different animal.  It is a critical part of developing their understanding of how some animal behaviors are beneficial, others are detrimental, and how the outcome of some behaviors changes depending on changes in the environment.

Next, I have students gather in a circle to act out the behavior of another animal that lives in a group, the banded mongoose.  I have them put their feet in the middle and lie down and designate one child to be the wild dog that is trying to sneak up on their group.  The children are able to have the visceral experience of the goal of mutual protection as well as the realization that they can see behind the head of their opposite neighbor.  While I try to stay away from overt anthropomorphization, in this case I think it is okay to personify the animals in such a human way because it is helping the students have a kinesthetic experience of how animals might be able to protect one another when they are sleeping or resting in a group.  

Claim

15 minutes

I ask students to write a claim about animal groups that we will continue to examine in further lessons.  Their claims can be very simple.  I write up examples of what they say on the board so students who are learning English can see how similar ideas can be expressed differently.  Examples:

  • I think it helps animals to live in groups.
  • It helps animals to live in groups.
  • Animals live better lives when they are in a group because they take care of each other.
  • Animals in groups protect each other.
  • Animals in groups help each other so it is better to be in a group than to be alone.
  • Animals may benefit from living in groups because they can help each other with protection and food but I also think that sometimes maybe groups are not good for them.

 

Reasoning

15 minutes

I ask them to write down examples of evidence that could support their claim.  Verbally, I ask additional questions about how these types of evidence would support their claim.  I model for the students so that they can start to do this kind of verbal work with one another.  Here is an example of one student's reasoning.  This student's thinking was less developed.