I ring my chime to get the class’s attention. I announce that we are about to begin the third Science lesson in our unit about animal habitats. I ask them to return to the carpet squares and ‘Show Five’. Once seated, I ask “What did you carry in on your back this morning?”. I wait for answers from the class. (Backpack! Jacket.) “Did you stop to think of the reason you carried this thing? What was its purpose?” (“We need it?”). “Let me read you a book and then see if you can guess some other reasons.”
I read A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle. It's an engaging book that makes an important lesson about structure and habitat really fun. As I read, I stop to ask questions about the appearance of the hermit crab, “What did the shell look like? Why did he need this structure? Why was this important for his environment? What was the purpose of the things he added to his shell?”. As I ask each question, I provide wait time, both for possible answer and for students to process the meaning of my questions. I transition the students and prepare them to watch a brief video of a hermit crab changing shells. While there is a deeper lesson of the ever-changing environment that affects the hermit crab’s habitat, it’s also just a really cool video that offers instant engagement.
Once the video ended, I share, “We get to be 'Naturalists' again today. What are you going to be today?” “A Naturalist!” “Remember Charles Darwin? He was the scientist who was born 200 years ago. He loved nature and was especially interested in how different plants and animals evolve depending on their habitat.” We learned about Charles Darwin in a previous lesson, so I wanted to bring him back to give deeper meaning to the study of habitats.
I connect a hermit crab’s environment to that of our frogs. “Where can our frogs live?” “In the tank with the plants.”. “Based on the book and video, where might we find a hermit crab?” “In a tank.” "In the ocean" “Yes, hermit crabs live in places that have a balance of sand and water, a little like the crab in the story. These places provide them with the right environment.” I display a picture of a hermit crab commonly found in pet stores. “These look like the hermit crab I have at home. They like places that are have both light and dark with sand and water. The variety of their habitat makes sure they have enough food. Other things around them keeps life interesting for them. It's fun for you to see different things and it's the same for hermit crabs.”
After the whole class instruction finished, I tell them “It’s time for us to design a habitat for a hermit crab. Based on the book, plus what we just learned, what are some things we need to include?” “Plants?" "Some food?" "Friends?” I acknowledge their choices and let them know that those things could come in a variety of forms. I keep the instruction simple because I was curious to see the choices they would make when left to their own accord. I use the chime to dismiss the students by group back to the tables.
I pass out the Habitat paper and circulate among the students as they complete this assignment. I want to spend adequate time listening to their comments (“Hermie needs a friend. I’m giving him another fish". “I’m putting in more plants. “He has to have a big pool but not too big.”), asking for clarification (“Tell me more about that.”) when necessary. To extend the concept and give the students were finished quickly something to do, I tell individual students to accurately color in the things they added in a way that would provide him the best camouflage. This formative assessment activity acted both to access prior knowledge (we learned about camouflage in our Slimy Snails unit) and add extra engagement (if there is a Kindergartener who doesn’t like to color, I’ve never met them!).
After the Hermit Crab Habitat designs were complete, I use a chime to single the end of this lesson piece. I ask the students to put their Reflection papers away in their bags and return back to their carpet squares. To act as a whole class recap, we gather again to refer to the original idea, 'What is the right place for a Hermit Crab to live?'. We share out the observations, “My habitat had a plant Hermie could eat.” “I made Hermie a rock wall to protect him. “I put in some friends so he wouldn’t be sad.”. I asked if this environment was like another animal in our classroom. "It's like the toads house because it has plants and less water." This discussion acts as a quick way both to recap the ideas and give voice to the things that the students learned.