Archive for the 'life science' Category

Classification of Living Things

Scientist have tried to classify living organisms into groups since Aristotle’s time.  Over time this classification system has changed and evolved as we have learned more about organisms.  Advances in technology have fueled many of these changes.  Scientist are now studying the genetic makeup of organisms.  With this new information, scientist believed that the long held system of 5 kingdoms needed to be reevaluated.  In 1990, it was suggested that the name “domain” be used to describe a rank higher than kingdom. The proposed three domain system includes the kingdoms, Protista, Plantae, Fungi, and Animalia under the Domain Eukarya.  The Kingdom Monera was separated into the two domains, Domain Bacteria and Domain Archaea.

This blog is intended to address the needs of educators teaching the classification of organisms using physical characteristics, body structures, and behavior of the organism (Virginia Standards of Learning 5.5).  With over one million different species on earth there is an abundance of books available.  I have tried to find a few excellent examples of books and other resources to get you started.

Book Reviews:

Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth,
By Rochelle Strauss and illustrated by Margot Thompson

This book is a great introduction to classification.  In a short 39 pages this book covers the traditional 5 kingdoms.  On a two page spread the book gives a colorful overview of each kingdom.  There is a brief description of the kingdom along with examples and a graphic that depicts the size of that kingdom compared to the remaining kingdoms.  The book breaks down the animal kingdom into invertebrates and vertebrates and the five classes of vertebrates.

The Animal Kingdom: A Guide to Vertebrate Classification and Biodiversity
By Kate Whyman

This book is 45 pages full of great information.  But don’t let the size deter you.  The introduction to each class of vertebrates contains a bulleted box that lists the characteristics of that vertebrate.  You can quickly cover the basics by looking at the pictures and bulleted boxes.  This book also contains a great introduction to what is a living thing and classification.  Herbivores, carnivores and the human impact on the animal kingdom are also briefly covered.
bug Bugs Up Close
By Diane Swanson and Photographed by Paul Davidson

Of all the different kinds of invertebrates, insects are the class we are all familiar with.  This book quickly describes the characteristics of insects and then devotes a page to each characteristic.  Photographer Paul Davidson provides amazing close-up photos of different types of insects.
book Amphibians: Water-t0-Land Animals
By Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Kristin Kest

Just like the cover, this book is filled with rich, colorful illustrations of amphibians.  The text is easy to read and brief.  Throughout the book are inserts with additional information and trivia facts.  At the end of the book is a scientific classification chart and glossary.  If you like this book, then you may like one of the other five that is in the series.

crab  Crab Moon
By Ruth Horowitz and illustrated by Kate Kiesler

In this fictional story, a young boy and his mother go to the beach in the middle of the night to see horseshoe crabs spawning.  This book would be a great way to introduce invertebrates to students.  After reading the story, students can discuss the characteristics of invertebrates and arachnids and how they are mentioned in the story.  The book also contains a fact sheet about horseshoe crabs.

Web sites for kids:

Animal Classification.  This site offers a brief description of the characteristics of mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and birds.  The descriptions are four to six bulleted points that are done colorfully and with pictures.  There is a Classification Game that is an excellent review of the different characteristics of the animals discussed.

Classifying Critters.   At this web site, there is a brief explanation of how scientists classify living things and an interactive quiz on vertebrates.  The quiz shows you a picture of one animal and asks that you identify an animal that would be in the same category as the first.  After you identify the correct animal, you are then given a multiple choice question.  The question is, what characteristics do these animals have in common?

Plant and Animal Differences.  To play this game you must quickly sort and drag the items to the correct box.  As the items go by on a conveyor belt you must sort them by bird, mammal, insect, or plant.

A Touch of Class game.  In this game you are given a grid with 16 shadow pictures of living things. You are asked to click the pictures that correspond with the statement at the top of the page.  Some examples of statements are: “things that have a tail” or “things that have a backbone.”

Video. Select the video titled “Form and Function.”  This video discusses how scientists look at animal’s structure and behavior when comparing them.  After watching this video, viewers should have a better understanding of how animals that look similar can be classified differently.

Teacher Resources:

Lesson plan.  Science NetLinks offers a two-part lesson plan on classification.  In addition to the lesson plans, the site also discusses the misconceptions and the difficultly that most students have in understanding classification. This site also offers assessment and extension activities.

Introducing Classification.  This site offers a brief explanation and history of classification along with descriptions of the 5 kingdoms and examples.  There is also a section that compares the kingdoms and an activity for students that can be printed.

Teacher overview.  At this site educators can review the characteristics of the main kingdoms.  The kingdoms are then broken down into further subgroups and examples of each are given.   Click on “Printable Worksheets” and you will find a 10 question assessment based on the information found on this site. This link takes you to a slide show about classification and discusses the three domains.  Look around the site and you will find great pictures and quizzes that can be used.

Learning About Plants

 All the books listed below are great resources teachers and readers can use in and out of the classroom to learn about the different parts of a plant. In these books, not only can you find important information, but ideas for projects. These books will be great to use while teaching Virginia Science Standards of Learning 4.4 a, b,  and c.

Plants (Make it Work Science) by Andrew Haslam, Claire Watts and Alexandra Parsons. Photographed by Jon Barnes

The book Plants takes an in depth look at how plants work. The great photographs illustrate the different activities and experiments that you can do at home or at school. Each activity has a list of supplies (most which are readily available), and clear, direct directions. From working with seeds to observing fruit decay, there are many unique and creative activities that will help students understand the different parts of the plant and how they work. The book defines what it means to be a scientist, what is botany, and how scientists collect data. It encourages children to conduct experiments using the scientific methods as well as record all their data. It also includes home made game instructions.

A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston Illustrated by Sylvia Long

A Seed Is Sleepy is a great book for young students who are learning about plants and how they grow. The author uses adjectives  to help describe certain plant characteristics (A seed is secretive,  A seed is thirsty… and hungry) Simple statements like these are easy for students to understand and even make connections to. The author also describes difficult terms with easy simple explanations. The illustrations are detailed and interesting and all the plants and seeds are labeled. Both the book and illustrations  do a good job demonstrating the variety of seeds, their colors, their sizes, and even the plants they grow into.

The Science Book of How things Grow by Neil Ardley

Similar to Plants (Make It Work Science), this book offers students various activities and experiments to perform easily at home or school. It explains each step carefully with step by step photographs and uses readily available materials. Each experiment provides a bit of background knowledge, the experiment, as well as a short description relating the experiment  and connecting it to the real world. For example, the activity “Root Power” experiments with the strength of roots by growing marigold seeds in an eggshell (as the plant grows, the roots break the egg shell). The author includes a photograph and description of a tree breaking through a cement sidewalk. This is the type of detail that helps build deeper understanding.

Pumpkin Circle: The Story of  a Garden by George Levenson and photographs by Shmuel Thaler
“The pumpkin seed makes the pumpkin plant, and the pumpkin plant makes pumpkins.” This story follows the life of a pumpkin, detailing each aspect of its life. In this book the pictures do most of the talking. Kids can see the seed in the flesh of the pumpkin, seeds being eaten as a snack, different types of seeds side by side, a seed being planted, the sprouts, and finally the seed in the soil with the roots spreading through the earth. Levenson narrates in easy to read sentences. As the garden of pumpkins grows, kids can see the large pumpkin leaves, the flowers, and even the insects the live along side the pumpkins. The pumpkin is finally ready to be made into a jack-o-lantern. Students can watch it slowly decay and return to the earth. Included in the back pages are instructions to grow your own pumpkin. I recommend this book to all young scientists especially for English Language Learners.

A Fruit Is A Suitcase For A Seed by Jean Richards, illustrated by Anca Harington

This book is a great introduction to seeds, plants, and fruits. Jean Richards compares fruits and seeds to suitcases, the seed being what is inside each fruit/suitcase. Readers can learn about what seeds are, how they travel, and different examples of fruits and seeds. The book includes colorful watercolor illustrations of seeds, fruits, and animals. This is a great book for beginning readers because it is simple and easy to comprehend.

Great links for kids

The Great Plant Escape Match the clue with the part of the plant

How Does Your Garden Grow? become a virtual gardener

Plant Word Search Find each word on the list

Plant Parts Match the plant parts with the correct definition

The Life Cycle of Plants Review games/activities

Links and resources for teachers

Parts of a Plant worksheet

Plants in Motion Time lapse movie and activities

From Seed to Plant Lesson plan

Plants and Seeds Lesson plan

Native Gardening Comprehensive guide to local plants



The common meaning of the word hibernate is the state that an animal sleeps for the entire winter, to protect themselves and help themselves survive when the temperatures are cold and food is hard to find.  There are several forms of hibernation and examples of animals that hibernate are bears, frogs, and groundhogs.  The concept on hibernation is covered in SOL 1.7, 2.5, 2.7, and 3.4.

Animals Hibernating:  How Animals Survive Extreme Conditions, by Pamel Hickman

This fun and informational book defines the two groups of hibernators:  true hibernators and deep sleeper. The true hibernators save energy during winter by greatly lowering their body temperature and breathing and heart rates (chipmunks) Some true hibernators include such as insects, toads, snakes, whose bodies partly freeze and then thaw again in the spring.  The deep sleepers such skunks and raccoons, go into a deep sleep for several weeks or months during winter-their breathing and heard rate drops but their body temperature lowers only slightly. In addition, this book provides activities to find out how our heart rate compares to bats and why maple syrup is like a hibernating frog.

What Do Animals Do in the Winter? How Animals Survive the Cold, By Melvin and Gilda Berger

This child’s book describes how groundhogs hibernate in the winter by sleeping for six months in nests found inside tunnels.  Also, this book describes how bats hibernate in caves by hanging upside down.

Extreme Animals:  The Toughest Creatures on Earth, by Nicola Davies

This book on page 19 describes the hummingbird as a “truly tough” creature on Earth because it lets their body temperature drop 35 to 55 degree F below normal.  The hummingbird does this every night to save on food.  Also, bats are “truly tough” too, because live off their own body fat until spring – so bats hibernate and let their bodies get really cold.  In addition on page 20, there is a description of the “frogsicles”- instead of hibernating the wood frogs  freeze and become brittle as glass, but they are not dead.

Every Autumn Comes the Bear, by Jim Arnosky

This colorful children’s book describes how a bear comes every autumn and prepares to hibernate for the winter, the other animals know what to expect from the bear.

Bear on the Train, by Julie Lawson

This book tell the story of a bear up jumps on a train car, eats grain, and falls a sleep during the snow the wind, and the rain.  A boy named Jeffrey sees the bear come into the small town and shouts at him to get off the train.  Jeffrey sees the bear for several months during the winter and the bear remains asleep.  It is not until the spring that the bear smells something different, open his eyes, and gets off the train.

Children website on hibernation.  This kids website give a definition of true hibernation and gives examples of animals that hibernate and a description of each. This kids website defines torpor shortened sleep time and provides five examples of animals that sleep and eat to survive in the winter.  This childrens website provides a memory games that after pairs of hibernating animals are matched, a picture of an animal that hibernates will appear.

This website provides a story about “sleeping through a dark cold winter” and talks about “true hibernation.  The websites talks about animals about such as dormouse, hedgehogs, pet tortoise, frog and newts.

This website provides a detailed kids friendly description of hibernation, with links to the animals that hibernate.  Also, this website provides additional links regarding the subject of hibernation.

Resources for teachers.  Excellent resource for teacher and includes links to website on activities regarding hibernation.  Website shares easy songs, poems, and provides links to fun and educational websites for kids. This website provides fun finger plays, songs, and activities to do with children, including an idea for a hibernation celebration.  Also, a link to the Booklet – Hibernation theme folder for Grade 1.  This teacher resource provides a lot of information and in a link to books and activities on hibernation.  This website provides hibernation theme ideas including books, songs, finger play, art and crafts. This website discusses “How do animals spend the winter?” Website goes detailed information regarding on hibernation and “How do animals know it is time to hibernate” and a corresponding project to with the class.


The Virginia science SOLs incorporate migration in the second, third and fourth grades. Students learn about the migration of birds, monarch butterflies, caribou, sea animals and various other creature. These animals travel by foot, swim, fly, or crawl to their destinations, in search of food or a milder climate. This post includes a variety of resources on these animals’ often long, dangerous journeys.


Home at Last by April Pulley Sayre; illustrated by Alix Berenzy – A beautifully illustrated book, Home at Last provides a lyrical text describing the migration of many animals. Illustrations done in pastel on black paper are paired with the description of these animals and their journeys. For example, a picture of a warbler in the night sky accompanies Sayre’s narration of the bird’s journey, guided by the starlight.

The Magic School Bus Goes Upstream by Joanna Cole; Illustrated by Bruce Degan and Nancy Stevenson – The Magic School Bus Goes Upstream explores the migration of a salmon. Ms. Frizzle takes the class on a ride upstream, following the path that a migrating salmon would take. The students learn that salmon migrate to a place where their eggs may hatch safely and they know how to find their destination by smell.

What is Migration? by John Crossingham and Bobbie Kalman – What is Migration? describes the migration of geese, salmon, turtles, ants and other animals. These descriptions are accompanied by photos. The book also has important terms in bold and a glossary in the back. This would be a great source for students to use for research or a report!

Going Home: The Mystery of Animal Migration by Marianne Berkes; illustrated by Jennifer DiRubbio – Going Home explains the phenomenon of migration in poetic form. Its rhyming couplets are narrated by the animals themselves. This is an entertaining book, with some nice pictures. It also has a section in the back with descriptions of each of the animals in the book.

The Journey: Stories of Migration by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Lambert Davis – The Journey: Stories of Migration describes the migration of locusts, monarch butterflies, gray whales, American silver eels, caribou and Arctic terns. The book examines the mystery that is migration; how do these animals deal with such extreme distances and climate shifts? how do they know where to go? Rylant answers these questions, but still conveys just how amazing these animals’ instincts are!

Online Interactive Resources 

Teacher Resources

Pond and Marsh Ecosystems

This blog post is a combination of different resources regarding the VA Science SOL 3.6 and 4.5 on ecosystems, specifically ponds and wetlands (marshes). The lesson(s) regarding this material should cover the following: what is an ecosystem? what kind of plants and animals live in ponds and marshes? how would you describe a pond? a marsh (wetland)? how do these plants and animals rely on each other for survival? how do these two ecosystems compare to other ecosystems? These are just some questions that should be covered when teaching this topic.

Below I have included some books, kid-friendly websites, and helpful resources for teachers that are all about pond and marsh ecosystems!


Look Closer: Pond Life by Barbara Taylor


This book has wonderful, huge photographs and the text is broken up into sections; perfect for 3rd and 4th graders. It discusses all of the different pond wildlife. It also describes what ponds are, but the book definitely focuses on the animals who call a pond their home.

Around the Pond: The Wild Wonder Series by Ann Cooper
Illustrated by Dorothy Emerling


This book is definitely a good book to use when introducing ponds as one of the many ecosystems. “Around the Pond” features beautiful pictures of the different animals that inhabit ponds and Cooper holds the attention of the reader through the use of not only great artwork, but also a treasure map! Very well written and easy to understand. Great for 3rd and 4th graders.

Ponds: Biomes and Ecosystems (Science Readers) by Yvonne Franklin


This book discusses the importance of ponds and the difference between ponds and other bodies of water. Franklin talks about the different plant and animal life that can be found in ponds and different cycles that occur in this ecosystem. A great book for younger readers- grades K-3.

Marvels in the Muck: Life in Salt Marshes by Doug Wechsler


This book discusses marshes and the different plants and animals who live there. The photographs are amazing and the text is very easy to understand. Wechsler talks about how important this ecosystem is and how many plants and animals depend on it for survival. It definitely a more challenging book and is targeted for grades 4th-6th.

Marshes and Swamps by Gail Gibbons


This book is a very easy read and targeted for ages 4-8. “Marshes and Swamps” would be a good book to use as an introduction to the lesson. Gibbons discusses the relationships between the plants and animals that call marshes and swamps home and discusses different ways that these “wetlands” can be protected and preserved. The pictures are done in watercolor.


Science Up Close: Pond Ecosystem Podcast
This short podcast provides an overview for students about ponds and how the animals and plants that live there rely on each other for survival. This is definitely a good site to use when introducing the material.

Pond Explorer
This is a great interactive website that provides the student with a few activities and information about each of the animals that inhabit ponds. For teachers,  there is a very cool hands-on experiment that is provided on the website and teachers’ notes are provided on each page of the site.

Salt Marsh Life
This website is great for students and provides them with a bunch of information about the pond as a habitat for many plants and animals. There are great photographs and the text is very easy to read/understand. You can even find where to visit a salt marsh by looking up where they are around the country.

American Field Guide
This website consists of a bunch of video clips of marshes, ponds, and other ecosystems all around the country. Students can watch these clips to learn more about the plants and animals in each of these environments.

Wet and Wild Wetlands Webquest
This is a great webquest for grade 3 and up! The students will learn all about the four types of wetlands: bogs, marshes, prairie potholes, and swamps. Groups of four take on different roles for the task: zoologist, botanist, land surveyor, and animal activist. These teams investigate physical characteristics of the ecosystems, plants and animals who live in these ecosystems, etc. Each of the different specialists have different roles and try and answer the questions that are provided.


Young Scientist’s Introduction to Wetlands
This is a 15-page print-out “book” about wetlands. Very helpful for both students and teachers when learning about ecosystems. Answers the important questions of: what is a wetland? what are the different types of wetlands? why are wetlands important? who and what lives in a wetland?

A Busy Pond Mini Book
Teachers print out this activity and students color and cut to make a mini book all about ponds and the plants and animals that live there.

A Pond Ecosystem: An Activity of Exploration
This is a lesson plan created by a teacher regarding the pond ecosystem. Within the lesson plan are six different “sessions” which include a bunch of different interactive games and fun activities. There is so much to choose from and great ideas!

Creating a Pond Habitat
This website offers a great idea: building your own pond inside or outside! Students will definitely like it if they are able to see a pond for themselves, especially if it belongs to the class. The website provides great ideas for creating your own pond. If your school does not have the resources to install a small outdoor “pond,”you can always just set one up in the classroom.

Animal Life Cycles

This topic introduces second graders to the exciting changes that can occur in a butterfly and frog’s life cycles. Through numerous activities children are guided through the process known as Metamorphosis and given the opportunity to become engaged with the material. They are able to learn about and physically see how frogs and butterflies undergo these transformations as they mature and grow in their environments (VA Science SOL 2.4). The material encourages them to interact with the content and in doing so provides them with a better understanding of the content knowledge.

Text Annotations

  1. Butterflies and Moths by Nic Bishop butterflies.jpgNic Bishop’s non-fiction narrative provides readers with a realistic visual aide into the stages of butterfly metamorphosis. He helps children understand the transformations a caterpillar undergoes to becoming a butterfly. It is an interactive, hands on book that parents can use to explore the realms of animal life cycles.
  2. From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman from-cateroillar-to-butterfly-300×241.jpgThis book dives into the stages of butterfly metamorphosis from a child’s perspective by asking the question, ” Where did the caterpillar go?” Heiligman creatively takes her readers through the transformation processes by asking and answering commonly asked children’s questions.
  3. From Tadpole to Frog by Wendy Pfeffer 9780064451239.jpgThis book uses attractive artwork to describe the two-year life cycle of the American Bullfrog. As a Stage One book “From Tadpole to Frog”  it uses simple sentences and concepts that are appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, and young children up to about 8 or 9 years of age.
  4. Frogs by Nic Bishop23660346jpg.jpgBishop uses captivating close up photographs of his characters to entice children into the wonders of a frog’s life cycle. But his book takes children beyond the visual perspective of metamorphosis as he provides his readers with a detailed description about how he went about capturing the photographs. This book leaves children longing for more.
  5. My, Oh My– A Butterfly! All about Butterflies by Tish Rabe51thfdmznzl_sx500_.jpgYou can not go wrong with any Cat in the Hat book, but this Butterfly book is excellent. It keeps kids engaged and excited about the life cycle of a butterfly. It is a great read for young children. Who wouldn’t want to learn about the butterfly life cycle after reading this book.

Web Annotations

  1. The life cycle of a frog– This website presents children with a guided tutorial through a frog’s life cycle. It encompasses an auditory step by step explanation of each stage in the cycle along with a visual representation of each stage, and so entices children to want learn the content. Children can learn this exciting content and have fun doing it.
  2. Animal life-cycles- This interactive game asks children to organize the pictures on the screen by dragging and dropping them into the correct order sequence for each animallife cycle. Once a child has dragged a picture into the box a detailed description of the stage appears to help them understand what is happening. If they correctly place the butterfly pictures in order they move onto a frog, a flower and then a tree’s cycle. They are rewarded for learning the life cycle sequences with more exciting information.
  3. Butterfly crossword- When a child clicks on a cross word box a question appears. The child has to type in the correct answer that fits into the box. This activity allows a child to apply all the information they have learnt about a butterfly into a fun and interactive activity.
  4. Fantastic Frog- This game asks children 10 general knowledge multiple choice questions about frogs. By asking questions like,  “What is the name of the biggest frog,” this website teaches children that learning can be both fun and rewarding. It changes the way the children perceive having knowledge as they can now pass on the fun facts they have learnt about frogs.
  5. Incomplete and complete metamorphosis- By clicking on the butterfly icon on the screen children can watch a movie describing a butterfly’s life-cycle. The movie goes through a step by step process of the different stages in the life-cycle providing it viewers with real life pictures of each process.

Additional Resources for Teachers

  1. Life processes and living things– This website provides teachers with a wealth of material on life processes. From worksheets to powerpoints this website has it all. It doesn’t matter what type of learners your children are because after being involved with the resources that this website has to offer they will know and love the content.
  2. Butterfly life cycle activity in the classroom–  This website provides teachers with three step by step craft instructions. It provides teachers with fun and interactive activities and crafts that will allow their children to grasp the content of a butterfly life cycle but explore their creative sides as they do it.
  3. Exploring Butterflies– This website provides teachers with butterfly lesson plans, print outs on the life cycle of the butterfly for children to fill in and writing activities that will allow the children to have fun as they learn the process of metamorphosis. The range of activities offered encourage all children, regardless of their learning styles to jump in and have fun with the material.
  4. Animal Lifecycle lesson plan– This lesson plan helps children compare and contrast the life cycles on different animals ( one being a frog). Groups of children are asked to analyze and observe the animals stages of development by watching them grow in an aquarium.
  5. Life cycles of frogs, dragon flies and dragon flies– This lesson plan allows children to become fully integrated in the stages of metamorphosis. Children are exposed to the differences and similarities of various animal life cycles as they observe the development and maturation processes of insects and frogs. Students are engage in reading, video and hands on activities that allows them to grasp the content on animal life cycles.

Food Chains and Food Webs

Students in the 3rd grade use the food chain model to understand the relationships of living things and their dependence on each other for survival (VA Science SOL 3.5).  While the food chain provides links to a basic flow of relationships, the food web, a more complex structure is used in the 4th grade to further explore this web of interdependence among living things (VA Science SOL 4.5).  Below you will find resources, including lesson plan ideas, activities, literature, and interactive games that can be used to help motivate students and reinforce content.



Trout Are Made of Trees, written by April Pulley Sayre is geared for ages 4-8.  This fun book introduces the food chain by using the river   ecosystem to show how leaves are eaten by critters which in turn are eaten by the trout.


Vulture View, another book written by April Pulley Sayre for grades K-5 shows the important role of scavengers and decomposers in the ecosystem through the eyes and life of a vulture.  It shows how the vulture breaks down dead organisms to provide nutrient for the soil.


The Story Goes On, a book written by Aileen Fisher for ages 4-8 shares the ongoing cycle of life.  It begins with a seed that gets eaten by a bug which then gets eaten by a frog.  The story goes on to show the links from a frog, a snake, a hawk, a hunter, and then back to a seed.


What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You, written by Steve Jenkins is geared for ages 4-8.  This vibrant book can be used to discuss some of the unique and interesting ways animals are able to defend themselves from their predators.


Pass The Energy, Please! by Barbara Shaw Mckinney is written for grades 1-5.  This book uses rhyme and teaches children about both the food chain and food web in a simple and entertaining way.


Kid’s Corner– This is an activity that allows children to build food chains by dragging parts into their appropriate place.  When the chain is complete, it comes to life and students are able to see the food chain in action.

Woodland Life– This activity allows students to locate living things in the woodland, learn a few fun facts about each including its predator and diet, as well as build a food web using the things found.

Sunny Meadows   This site provides an overview of the food chain and then allows you to play a game to simulate what would happen in the meadow depending on how many predators, prey, and plants that are added.  The animals will increase, decrease, or even disappear through the years depending on its food supply.

Gould League Food Web  This site allows you to choose from four different food webs.  Students categorize living things that are displayed as producer, omnivore, etc. based on their diet.  When the chart has been completed, the food web will be displayed.

Virtual Owl Pellet Dissection– This online activity allows students to dissect an animal pellet.  Students use the bones that are found to recreate the animal that has been eaten.


Decomposers and Scavengers -This site includes facts, pictures, a quiz, and a lesson plan on decomposers and scavengers.

Worksheets -This site includes free downloadable worksheets and activities for helping students with vocabulary, classification, etc.

Class Activities/Handouts– Here you can find interactive games, activities, as well as handouts for practicing food webs.

Activities/Lesson Plans -This site provides a number of activities and lesson plans on the food chain/web theme.

Lesson Plans-This site includes background information as well as a number of lesson plan ideas for teaching food chain and food web.

The Rainforest

In third grade, students begin their investigation of the habitats of the world, which are divided into water-related environments and dry-land environments (VA Science SOL 3.6). One of the prominent habitats that is covered is the rainforest. The resources provided below cover everything ranging from the climate of the rainforest, to the plants and animals, to what medicines are derived from the rainforest. Another important aspect that is talked about in several of the resources is that of conservation and endangered animals. Several books and websites help students understand why the rainforest is important, what is happening to it, and what we can do to help.

Childrens Literature


A is For Anaconda By Anthony D. Fredericks; Illustrated by Laura Regan

This book is a great way to introduce students to importance of the rainforest and the different types of life that exist there. Each page is a different letter of the alphabet, which corresponds to a part of the rainforest, ranging from animals and plants to medicines derived from the area. The illustrations, done by Laura Regan, are stunning and give the students a clear picture of scenes in the rainforest. It is also a great resource for talking about endangered animals because biologist Fredericks features several different endangered animals in the book.


The Great Kapok Tree By Lynne Cherry

This is another great book to help students appreciate the significance of the rainforest and recognize why conservation is so important. The story begins with a man who is trying to chop down a huge kapok tree in the rainforest. He falls asleep while he is working, and throughout the course of the day, many different animals, and in the end, a child, visit him and describe to him the consequences of destroying the rainforest habitat. When he awakens and sees all of the animals around him, he puts down his ax and leaves the tree standing. Much like the previous book, this is a great resource for teaching about endangered animals.


Rain, Rain, Rainforest By Brenda Z. Guiberson; Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

In this book, Guiberson takes the students on a journey following different animals through their typical days in the rainforest. The use of onomatopeia and animal sounds characterize the story, along with Jenkins unique collage style of illustration.


The Rainforest Grew All Around By Susan K. Mitchell; Illustrated by Connie McLennan

For teachers who like interactive books and activities, this would be a great choice because it can be used as a sing-along. This song "The Green Grass Grew All Around" is adapted to the rainforest setting and can be read poetically or sung out loud. While the song itself uses very simple terms, there are sidebars on each page that describe in more detail certain animals or plants that are talked about in the song.


Jaguar in the Rainforest by Joanne Ryder; Illustrated by Michael Rothman

Well written and beautifully illustrated, this book takes students into the life of a jaguar, one of the most feared predators in the rainforest. As the jaguar travels around the rain forest, the students learn about the climate, animals and plants that surround him in his habitat.


This website is a great resource for habitats in general (links can be found at the top of the page), but especially for studying the rainforest. Unlike other sites that I have seen, this one introduces the idea of temperate versus tropical rainforests and gives plenty of information on the climate, plants, animals, and life of each.

Although it would take some scaffolding and direction on the teachers part because it is a dense website, this site is a great resource. It is put out by National Geographic and is chock full of beautiful pictures and great information.

Run by a former teacher, this site answers lots of questions about what a rainforest is, why they are disappearing, and why they are an important part of our world. There is also a cute section of the website called "Mongy's Adventures" that follows a little tree frog through the rainforest.

This website is a great resource for very specific information about aspects of the rainforest. It is split into three sections: geosystem, ecosystem, and researchers. Each category is broken down into lots of smaller topics and the information presented is very detailed and complete.

This site is one of few interactive websites that I could find about the rainforest. It is run by PBS and is based on the Amazon. Students can click on different parts of the Amazon to learn about them or can play a game based on a journey into the Amazon.

Teacher Resources

This list of student activities was put out by the Rainforest Action Network and has some really neat ideas. The ones that caught my eye were the rainforest pen pals and the create your own rainforest in your classroom!

Thinking Fountain created this cute activity to help students learn about the layers of the rainforest and the animals that live there.

Webquests are always a hit with students, and this one is great. It is specifically aimed at third grade and sends them on a journey to broadcast a TV show on the "Rainforest Explorer Network".

If your students need a great visual of the rainforest, this site provides different video clips of animals in the rainforest. They are quick to load and don't require downloading!


The following resources are helpful in teaching about hibernation. The SOL's specific to this topic are 1.7, 2.5, 2.7 and 3.4.  In first grade, students need to understand the concepts of migration, hibernation, and habitat, but they do not necessarily need to know the terms. In second grade, students learn how animals respond to changes in the seasons and by third grade they will be able to describe and explain hibernation.


Hibernation (Patterns in Nature series)
Margaret Hall

This book offers great close-up shots of animals in their dens and explains the hibernation cycle, along with resources for further reading and online research with Fact Hound, Capstones own cartoon icon for active learning.


What Is Hibernation? (Science of Living Things)
John Crossingham

This book offers full-color photographs and vivid text that combine to give readers a view of the many different ways that animals hibernate.

The Magic School Bus Sleeps for the Winter (Scholastic Reader, Level 2)
Eva Moore

This book in the popular Magic School Bus series takes readers on a ride to learn all about how different kinds of animals survive through the winter.


Animals Hibernating How Animals Survive Extreme Conditions
Pamela Hickman

Readers will find out which animals hibernate and why, the difference between true hibernators and deep sleepers, where animals hibernate, what happens while they hibernate, and much more. This book is packed with illustrations, facts, activities and easy-to-do experiments.


Why Do Bears Sleep All Winter?: A Book about Hibernation
Jane Duden and Bernd Heinrich

In this “First Facts, Why in the world?” nonfiction book designed for readers in kindergarten through third grade, each chapter is a question that is answered in several paragraphs along with accompanying photographs. The photographs are interesting and entertaining for young readers. A short glossary is included, followed by a list of related books, Internet sites, and an index. Words printed in bold type in the text are listed with meanings in the glossary.

Teacher / Parent Resources

  • Brainpopjr is a subscription website, but offers a 30 day free trial. This page provides background information about hibernation and fun activities and lesson ideas.
  • This is a fun worksheet to use at the end of a unit on hibernation. It is probably best for first grade.
  • This worksheet is suitable for second or third graders and can be used as a review of the hibernation unit or as a quiz.
  • This website is a great resource for second and third grade units on hibernation and includes interactive SmartBoard activities.
  • This is a word search worksheet that identifies 16 different animals that hibernate. It is appropriate for second and third grade.

Student Resources

  • This is an interactive ThinkQuest for students to use as a resource to extend their study of hibernation. It has interesting facts, games and links for more information about hibernation.
  • This is an online game where the student matches the animal to either the word "hibernate" or "migrate". This is suitable for 3rd graders.
  • This is an interactive online game where you have to find all the animal pairs to uncover the photo of animals that hibernate! When you find a match, a part of the photo gets revealed. Hibernating animal cards include the following pictures: squirrel, bat, badger, frog, butterfly, ladybug, bear, racoon, turtle and skunk. Each time you play, the cards get shuffled around.
  • This website provides the reader with information about what hibernation is and includes a word mix-up at the end as an assessment of the material read. This would be suitable for second or third grade.
  • This link provides a video about hibernation.


This blog provides links to books, interactive kids’ websites, and teaching resources that would be useful in covering the topic of Camouflage in the classroom. The links provided would be appropriate to use with grades ranging from kindergarten to third grade. Many of the sites provided include audio, so if the children are still working on learning to read, they will still understand what to do. Both the books and the websites provide excellent realistic imagery to give the students a clear visual of what camouflage is. Detailed lesson plans can be found in the teacher resources section of the blog. The information provided on this topic covers parts of the following VA Science SOLS: (1.5, 2.7, 3.4)



Where in the Wild?: Camouflaged Creatures Concealed…and Revealed, By: David Schwartz and Yael Schy, Illustrated by: Dwight Kuhn

where in the wild

From kindergarten age children to parents and teachers, this book is guaranteed to intrigue the reader from page one. Through creative shape-poetry and captivating photography, the reader is challenged to unmask the hidden creatures in the images. This book provides very realistic images, giving the reader a clear representation of what camouflage really looks like. Additionally, the book also includes facts about the animals that are hidden in the pictures. With these facts, the poetry, and the photography, readers are equipped with several tools to help them reveal the hidden creatures.

 Winnie the Witch, By: Valerie Thomas and Illustrated by: Korky Paul


This fun Halloween story is about a witch named Winnie and her black cat, Wilbur. Everything in Winnie’s house is black,including Wilbur. Problems begin when Wilbur closes his green eyes to take a nap and Winnie can not see him at all. Winnie ends up tripping over and stepping on Wilbur several times. In an effort to help both herself and her cat, Winnie changes Wilbur into various colors other than black in order to see him better. However, each color seems to create more problems for Winnie and Wilbur. The colorful Wilbur attempts to escape and hide in the top of a tree from Winnie. In the end, Winnie’s love for her cat leads her to change him back to black.

Animals in Camouflage, Written and Illustrated by: Phyllis Limbacher Tildes

animals in camo

The pages of this non-fiction book are filled with seven different animals. These animals are hidden from their predators in large colorful pictures. Children are encouraged to use both the pictures and the written clues to determine where the animal is located. At first, the reader tries to guess where the animals is. Once they turn the page, the reader will discover what animal is hidden within the page. This book provides a colorful representation of camouflage, blending, color change, disguise, and pattern. Additionally, more facts are included at the end of the book about the animals that were discovered.

3-D Close up: Animal Camouflage, By: Daniel Gilpin


This book is filled with mesmerizing close-up photography, artwork, and engaging text. This book also includes four 3-D pop-up cross sections that portray animals with and without their disguises. The reader will learn why some animals need to hide and some do not and how they manage to do it. Some of the camouflaged animals the reader will learn about are zebras, cuttle fish, and clouded leopards.

The Mixed-Up Chameleon, By: Eric Carle


This book by Eric Carle, tells the story of a Chameleon who is not satisfied with blending into his surroundings. After noticing a zoo, he sees all the wonderful animals and begins to wish for various characteristics of all the animals. (“I wish I was tall like a giraffe.”) After receiving all of his wishes, the chameleon ends up being a combination of several different animals that does not really work well all together. The chameleon realizes this when he tries to eat a fly but can not reach it. Upon realizing this, the chameleon wishes to return back to himself again.

Interactive Kids Websites

Camouflage Field Book

At this website, children are given the opportunity to navigate through four different habitats: Coral Reef, Rain Forest, African Grassland, and Arctic Meadow. After choosing and clicking on a habitat, the child is able to participate in a hidden animal search. Each of the habitats represents various species using camouflage in different ways.

If You Can’t Run, You’ve Got To Hide!


The first activity on this website the children can take part in is a “Where is Waldo” game. They are given two pictures where the character Waldo is hidden. They must “test their predator skills” and try to find Waldo in both pictures. Further down on the page there are three pictures of real animals using camouflage in their habitats. The child is challenged to try and find the animal in the picture. Lastly, the child is given a representation of comparing and contrasting the habitat that would be safest for a hare. They are given two pictures with a hare, one in the white snow and one in the forest.

Walking With Beasts


This is a great interactive site for kids to play around with different forms of camouflage on both predators and their prey. At this site, kids choose between either a predator or prey. Then, they are instructed to choose a background for their animal: jungle, plains, or tundra. After this, they can choose different fur colors (white, tawny, or dark), shadings (under or counter), and patterns (spots or stripes) to best fit their animal in that habitat.The child can reset the screen and start over at anytime and experiment with different habitats and animals.

Brain POP Jr. – Camouflage

This interactive site gives children several different activities to experiment with. The first activity is a short cartoon movie where kids watch and learn about Annie and Moby’s quest to learn more about camouflage. The child will learn with Annie and Moby about how both predators and their prey use camouflage, why what animals change color, why some animals change colors in different seasons, and how animals confuse other animals. Another activity the children can access from this site is drawing an animal camouflaged in its habitat. They can use crayons of different colors and erasers located on the site. Kids can make up an imaginary animal that uses camouflage. The are instructed to name their animal and describe how they use camouflage to survive in their environment. Kids can also fill out a KWL chart about camouflage in the “talk about it” section on the site. Additionally, kids can play with the word wall that provides interactive index cards that have a word on one side and definition on the other. Another activity is the hidden animals game. Kids are given four different habitats and are challenged to find three hidden animals in each. Everything on this site is read aloud to the child. All the child needs to do is roll the mouse over the text and the computer will read off the directions.

Hidden Animals Game


 This is another great site where kids have the opportunity to play a game where they have to spot the animal that is hidden by camouflage. Once the child thinks they have found the animal, they click on it and after clicking on the correct animal they are given a quick fact about the animal. They can do this activity with several different animals including: lizards, bears, rabbits, snakes, foxes, turtles, owls, amphibians and more!

Additional Teacher Resources

Hunting Like a Hawk


This site provides four different activities to implement into a camouflage lesson plan. One great activity to do with students is the “Hunting Like a Hawk” game. This game portrays the idea that sometimes, even camouflage can fail with sudden movements from the prey. Other activities at this site include: Hiding in the habitat and Hide and Seek. These games are a great way for the students to have a hands-on experience of camouflage. This site also provides teaching advice on: blending, pattern, disguise, and mimicry.

Why Are Polar Bears White?


This site provides a lesson plan teaching students how color can help animals in the wild. In the activity in the lesson plan, students go outside and try to find as many toothpicks that the teacher scattered around as possible. When they come back inside they discuss why some colors were found more than others (ex: green).  Students will also create a polar bear painting on white paper to depict how its fur helps it blend in with its environment.

Camouflage Lesson Plan


This lesson plan could be used with students ranging from grades K-3. In the activity, students will observe the important characteristics of camouflaged animals. One of the activities requires the students to create paintings of an animal in a certain habitat that they choose. Once they have finished they cut them out and take them outside where the teacher will prop them up according to a certain distance. The students will observe their paintings at different ranges from both sides: the painted side and the white/blank side.

Camouflage Animal Print Outs


This site provides several print outs of animals that use camouflage. After clicking on an animal, a description of the animal appears alongside the image. There is also a key that goes along with the image of the animal so the students know what to color each part of the animal.