How Do We Adapt?

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Students will understand, that although our bodies do not necessarily change, we adapt to our environment through the use of technology, dwellings, clothing, and other tools.

Big Idea

All living creatures adapt to their environment.

RAP - Review and Preview

5 minutes

I call students to the gathering area to review how their adaptation project went. Students talk about some of the adaptations that they devised for their animals. We do a gallery walk of adaptation drawings to look at the different ways animals adapt to their environments.

We re-gather at the gathering area and I tell students that we, as humans, also adapt to our environment. I tell students my story of adaptation as I was born and raised in South Africa and now live in Alaska. This has taken some getting used to. Many students in my class have also moved from different climates and made changes to survive in Alaska.

If you don't have a personal story of change to share, prep a student who has, beforehand and have them share or share their story together. Another teacher may have a story to share, or a community member. In our very mobile society, there are many who have an adaptation story to tell.

Guided Instruction

10 minutes

As I tell my story I fill in a T-Chart of changes that I have made or changes that I have observed in the environment. My T-Chart is attached in the resources section. This T-chart is by no means exhaustive, but it gives students some ideas of the differences in environment and some of the changes that I have had to make to survive in Alaska. I cannot have the same house construction, same clothing, and do some of the same activities in these different environments as I would either freeze to death or overheat. I have had to make significant lifestyle changes.

I ask students who have moved from significantly different places to offer their own changes and we record those on the board. We discuss that although my body has not changed to deal with the significant changes in environment, my actions, my adaptations of housing, vehicle, clothing, activities, and technology have changed. These are all necessary for survival. I do tell students that my body has become more accustomed to the extreme temperatures. I do not find the winters as difficult to endure as I did that first year I was living here. There are some things that my body can handle more easily, but I still must protect my body to survive. I cannot go without protective gear for fear of damaging my body from hypothermia, just as I had to protect myself from severe heat by not going outside in the middle of a hot day to avoid heat exhaustion.

Individual Investigation

20 minutes

I hand students their own T-Chart. I tell students that they can tell their own change in environment story through their T-chart, if they have moved from somewhere else. Students who were born and raised in Alaska , can pick an environment from our adaptations project lesson and compare living there to living in Alaska.

As students work, I ask guiding questions so they think through all the different aspects of adaptation to the new environment. I point to my own T-Chart for them to use as a guide.

I suggest that they think through adaptations of environment such as:

  1. housing
  2. vehicles
  3. weather survival
  4. clothing

I suggest that they think through activity adaptations such as:

  1. summer activities
  2. winter activities
  3. ability to be outside
  4. preparation for being outdoors


15 minutes

Students turn in their T-charts for assessment. It is sometimes difficult to understand the depth of a child’s thinking in a bulleted T-chart so I meet with students to have them explain their adaptations as this is much more informative and I am better able to assess their level of understanding of the concepts. I grade students as emerging understanding, proficient understanding, exemplary understanding.

Emerging understanding: Student is able to articulate some of the changes necessary, but cannot always provide a reason why or how this should look in the different environment.

Proficient understanding: Student is able to articulate some of the changes necessary, and can provide a reason why or how this should look in the different environment.

Exemplary understanding: Student is able to articulate some of the changes necessary, can provide a reason why or how this should look in the different environment, and can provide several examples of a potential adaptation to the new environment.