Cool Body Coverings!

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SWBAT identify different animal body coverings and how these coverings help animals survive in their habitats.

Big Idea

Fur, feathers, scales, shells, and skin! What keeps you the warmest? What keeps you the coolest? Let's investigate together!

Setting the Stage:

National Science Education Science Standards Connection:

The National Science Education Standards has said that making observations is key to inquiry-based and discovery-focused learning in science instruction. In order to do this students participate in inquiry-based learning that allows them to solve a problem in science through observation, discourse and using a science journal. Students will then be give a chance to share their findings with their peers and then reflect on their own understanding.

Next Generation Science Standards Connection:

Students will research different body coverings. They will understand that animals need different coverings to help them survive in different habitats. Students will then compare and contrast different body coverings and the purposes for these coverings.

*This lessons run a little long because there is a 22 minute video in the elaborate section. 

Home to School Connection:

In this unit we will be learning animal and plant parts. Students will learn that organisms have external parts that help them survive in nature. The NGSS standards ask students solve a human problem by mimicking how plants and animals survive.  Each a day a student in class will be able to take home the Organisms Bag. In this bag I have included a recording sheet, crayons and pencils, and the book What if You Had Animal Teeth by Sandra Markle.

Classroom Structures:

In order to support a high level of student discourse within my science lessons I have assigned two different student partnerships.  Turn and Talk Partners are discourse partners that work together to share the deep thinking that happens throughout the day.  Workshop Partners are partners who are matched together for the purpose of working during our independent times.  In this lesson students will be engaged in both partnerships.

Vocabulary Cards:

These are the vocabulary words that will be covered in this unit that addresses 1-LS1-1.  You can choose to use these cards in different ways. I like to print all vocabulary words on card stock and hang them on my science bulletin board as a reference tool throughout the unit.  You can also use these cards as flashcards or a concentration matching game.


Book - Animals should definitely not wear clothing by Judi and Ron Barrett

Graph - What keeps you the warmest?



Fur - I use fake fur from a fabric store

Scales  - You can use imitation snake skin from your local fabric shop, or use your handbag or a snake toy that has imitation scales.



Zoo Books or other books with animals from your library

Worksheet - Let's Research Skin Covering

Song - Body Coverings Song

Science Journals:  I just use blank paper in my journals so my students have space and freedom to experiment with graphic organizers, illustrations, etc.

Science Journal Prompt: My animal is...


5 minutes

The NGSS asks that students understand the structures and functions of animals. This lesson allows students to understand how animal coverings help them survive in their habitats.

I want to develop a culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration. I begin this lesson activating prior knowledge for my young students with this fun book about animals.  

Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi and Ron Barrett

This is a great book for young children and great way to lead into the learning that will take place. After reading the book aloud, we fill out a KWL chart and leave the "What We Learned" column blank.  I make a point to add the vocabulary words mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians into our conversations about animal conversations.  I don't focus too much on this vocabulary because it will be taught further in later lessons. 

Boys and girls, what animal coverings do you know about? My students share fur, feathers, scales and quills.  You are right! Mammals have fur, birds have feathers, and fish and reptiles have scales. 

The NGSS asks that students engage in questioning and wondering. I ask my students, Are you wondering anything?  My students make a list of wonderings. I ask my students to record their wonderings on sticky notes and place them on the wondering column. I read over the wonderings and find the ones that tie into this lesson's inquiry question. Great questions!! I notice you asked:

*I wonder why porcupines have quills?

*I wonder why snakes have scales?

*Why do bears need fur?

In our last lesson you learned that there are all different habitats some are warm and some are cold.  Today we are going to investigate how different skin coverings help them to survive in their habitat.


25 minutes

The standard addressed in this unit requires students to make observations and identify functions of structures that help animals survive in nature.  In this lesson my students get to observe and collect data on the animal skin coverings. The NGSS asks that students participate in planning and carrying out investigations, this lesson allows students to carry out an investigation on animal coverings. 

Investigation Part 1:

The NGSS ask that students use models in their investigations. I divide my students into four groups.  Each group has a few minutes to explores each of the different skin coverings that I have available: fur, feather and hair.  If you can find skin covering for reptiles, I would add that to the bunch too. 

Let's explore - feathers

Let's Explore - fur

Let's Explore - hair

Exploring Body Coverings

Then I place each covering in a cup and ask, "Which skin covering will keep you the warmest?" I ask my students to share the ideas with their "elbow partners"(partners that sit side by side when sitting at a table). I ask them to share their reasons why they think that covering is the warmest.

"I think ______ because _______."

The NGSS asks that students participate in using mathematics and computational thinking. I pass out our Graph - What keeps you the warmest? and ask my students to record their predictions.  Together we read the temperature on all 4 thermometers before we place them into the cups and graph that data.  The Common Core State Standards for grade 1 asks that students organize, represent, and interpret data as well as answer questions about that dataWe will be comparing our two graphs to discover which skin covering is the warmest. We graph the temperatures on the 1st graph. 

After completing the first graph, we place the cup of fur, the cup of feathers, the cup of hair into a bucket of ice and wait an hour or so. 

Fur, Feathers, Hair

***FYI - The graphs below show blubber because my students really wanted me to add blubber to this investigation. They have been fascinated with whale blubber lately however we are not really studying blubber as a body covering so I simply added it as an authentic teachable moment. The graph resources is in word so you may edit it as you like.

Graph Part 1

Graph Part 1

Investigation Part 2:

While we are waiting for the cups to get nice and cold, my students investigate different skin coverings using Zoo Books.  This is my most favorite magazine!  There is so much to be learned from the photographs for my non-readers and it is also jam packed with great information for my readers.  I ask my students to record what they notice about the different skins coverings by prompting with these questions:

How does that skin covering help that animal survive in its habitat?

Why do you think it has ____ as a skin covering?

As they are researching they record their information on a recording sheet called Investigation Worksheet - Let's Research Skin Covering.

Let's Research - Animal Coverings

Let's Research - Animal Coverings

Let's Research - Animal Coverings

Let's Research - Animal Coverings

Recording Sheet - Body Coverings

Recording Sheet - Body Coverings

Recording Sheet - Body Coverings

Recording Sheet - Body Coverings

As my students research I walk around and confer with each student naming and noticing the smart thinking happening. Conferring is the process of listening and recording the work the student or students are doing and then compliment the work. As I listen, I research a teaching point and then work to provide clarification through questioning, modeling and re-teaching.

Investigation Part 3:

This is the BIG reveal!!  The NGSS asks that students analyze and interpret data. If the investigation is done correctly, the feathers should show that they hold the most heat.  As my students sit at their tables, graphs in hand they wait eagerly to find out which skin covering holds the most heat.  I remove each thermometer and record the heat on our whiteboard.  My students help in reading the temperatures and I round the numbers up or down for the sake of making the graphing easier. 

Our findings:

Feathers: 50 degrees

Fur: 30 degrees

Hair: 20 degrees

Blubber: 20 degrees

As the temperature are read off my students record their findings on their graphs.

Finished Graph

Finished Graph

As my students graph I walk around and confer with each student naming and noticing the smart thinking happening. Conferring is the process of listening and recording the work the student or students are doing and then compliment the work. As I listen, I research a teaching point and then work to provide clarification through questioning, modeling and re-teaching.


10 minutes

The NGSS asks that students communicate and explain their findings. In the explain section I want my students to share how their thinking has changed about animal coverings and/or share how why they chose the covering they did.  My students sit in a circle as a whole group and build upon each others thinking.  I want my students sharing their observations and explaining their thinking as well as engaging in high levels of student discourse and reasoning. 

Video - Group Discussion

I ask my students if they own anything that is made with feathers. My students share things like: pillows, bed comforters and warm jackets. We record what we have learned on our KWL chart.


25 minutes

There is nothing more fun than elaborating on our learning with a really good movie about animal coverings.  You may wish to play only part of this video, however I think it is it worth the time to watch it in its entirety.



The NGSS asks that students obtain, evaluate and communicate information. I ask my students to share one new fact learned from the video with their elbow partner.  I listen in on conversations and ask prompting questions like, how does that help that animal survive in nature? 


15 minutes

The Science and Engineering Practice 4 asks students to analyze data. At the K-2 level this involves students collecting, recording, and sharing observations. In this lesson the students are recording information, thoughts and ideas in their science journals.

Our science journal prompt for this lesson is:

My animal is __________________. Its body is covered with _________________. This helps it to ...

Student responses should include ways that body coverings help animals to survive:

Shark skin - swim fast

Polar Bear fur - warmth

Penguin feathers - warmth, waterproof

Elephant Skin - hold mud to keep it cool