Getting Ready to Play Fox and Quail

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Students study how specialized senses and adaptations help animals survive.

Big Idea

In this lesson, students use a mystery QR code to lead them to understand how a specific animal has specialized senses and adaptations that help it respond when hunting or fleeing.


10 minutes

This is a two part lesson that  begins with research and ends with a fun outdoor activity. It is a great way to help students start to understand how specialized senses are essential for survival.  

Preparation: Generate QR codes for the following sites and post them around the room labeled with numbers 1-6 without the names of the animal. This keeps it a mystery. Then, label small pieces of scrap paper with the numbers, being sure to create more prey than predators. For my group of 22, I had one predator per four students. This keeps the following activity after this lesson in balance. 

 These are the sites for each:

Hawk: Sight

Fox: Read the part about ears only.

Deer: Read the parts about camouflage, hearing & antlers

Wolf  Skim down to adaptations of this article and read this to understand the grey wolf.

 Bobwhite Quail: Read about how these birds escape predators.

Mink: They stink and they are strong enough to pick up larger prey and haul away with them.

 Engage: To get students going on this exciting and active lesson, I asked students to turn and talk about their 5 senses and how they use them to survive. Questions written on the white board were:

How do we use hearing to protect ourselves? How do we use vision? What other senses are essential for our protection and survival?  

After their visit with their classmate, I asked students to share their discussions. They all agreed that hearing was essential to understand if a car was coming, sirens or warnings. Sight was essential to understand where we are going and if we are moving safely. They continued to discuss each of the five senses, sharing their thoughts about how we use them to keep us safe. As they were sharing I passed out the number cards face down on their desks and their Predator Prey Adaptations sheet. 

They all wanted to know what the QR codes were about. I told them that it was a mystery and that the next part of the lesson was to be kept as much as a secret as they could so that the activity tomorrow would be more exciting. We were ready to begin!



QR Code Mystery Unveiled

45 minutes

This next section of the lesson began with me focusing their attention off the QR codes and number cards. I shifted it to the research sheet and asked them to follow along as I went through each bit of instructions and information. They followed intently. One question was if they couldn't find three senses or adaptations that the animal used, would it matter? I replied that these animals all have at least three and if they had trouble to please seek help. I reinforced that it was alright to look beyond that web page if a link took them to more information. I told them to read all captions, look at videos and work to find at least three ways that this animal has to use its senses or adaptations to survive.

As soon as students were ready, I asked them to flip over their cards to look at their number. I told them to discreetly take the photo, find a quiet spot in the room and get busy researching. I roved the classroom as students were using their iPad to capture the QR codes and were immediately engaged. The element of surprise was a great feature and the QR code really provided that engagement. Some students had questions about clarifying the what their animal does to protect itself.  As they were researching I could see how they were suddenly connecting the idea of specialized parts, like ears of fox, to hunting and survival. This project helped make those connections because then at the bottom they needed to decide HOW they would portray this animal in a predator/prey situation. I interviewed some students about how they planned on acting. I had fun talking about deer ears and how students planned on acting out their animal. 

Wrap Up

10 minutes

To wrap up this lesson, I collected their research sheets first and asked them to join me in a sharing circle. As they sat down, I asked them again how they had to think about the senses that their animal uses in order to plan how they were going to adapt to acting out the animal. I asked them how they thought their brains were connected to their five senses. 

They shared ideas about how animals brains "just know" that their senses tell them. I told them that the internal structure of how the brain responses to our senses is an amazingly complicated study.

I explained that tomorrow, we would be creating a model of how the animals we studied today hunt through playing a game outside.