PictureSTEM: Designing Hamster Habitats

Contributor
Kristina M. Tank, Tamara J. Moore, Elizabeth Gajdzik PictureSTEM: Tamara Moore and Kristina Tank
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Unit , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Project
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

Students are introduced to a fictional problem (the need for a new hamster habitat in a pet store) and are invited to solve the problem through an engineering design (a hamster habitat). They work through a series of lessons to learn about the needs of animals and how their habitats provide their basic needs. Students research a variety of animals and habitats in the wild and in captivity. At the end of the unit, students use what they have learned to design and construct a habitat prototype that meets all the basic needs of a hamster and the criteria of the client (pet store). 

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Early Elementary
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

K-2-ETS1-1 Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Lessons guide students through research about various animals, habitats, and structural features of animals. The students ask and answer questions that help them to define specific problems in habitats and to incorporate their proposed solutions in their habitat designs.

K-ESS3-1 Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals (including humans) and the places they live.

Clarification Statement: Examples of relationships could include that deer eat buds and leaves, therefore, they usually live in forested areas; and, grasses need sunlight so they often grow in meadows. Plants, animals, and their surroundings make up a system.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students design and construct a model to represent a habitat that can provide for all the needs of a hamster. Their model is an enlarged (scaled) home for a pet hamster and reflects what students have learned throughout the unit in order to build their model to closely resemble a hamster's natural habitat.

K-ESS2-2 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how plants and animals (including humans) can change the environment to meet their needs.

Clarification Statement: Examples of plants and animals changing their environment could include a squirrel digs in the ground to hide its food and tree roots can break concrete.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students conduct research on animal habitats using online and print resources. They are required to provide justification for their habitat design based on their research and background knowledge of basic needs that are provided by natural and designed habitats. The learning objective focuses on the role humans play in sustaining natural habitats and providing habitats that meet the needs of captive animals.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
In the final activity, students design and construct a model for a hamster habitat for a pet shop. They agree on what needs to be included in all models then compare and critique each other's models. Students then have the opportunity to redesign their own models.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students use a variety of print materials to observe animals in their specific habitats, identify features and body structures that help the animal live and grow in that environment. Guiding questions are provided throughout the lesson that encourage students to ask and answer their own questions about the designed and natural world. Observing animals in their natural environment (albeit through print) helps students to understand what needs to be provided in a man-made environment for an animal to survive.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students have opportunities in several lessons in this unit to gain information about animals' needs and how they obtain them through their environment. In order to meet the full expectation of this disciplinary core idea, include opportunities through print or other media for students to understand how plants' needs differ from those of animals and how plants obtain what they need.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The unit develops the idea of systems in the natural world by identifying them in different natural habitats, and in the designed world through designing and constructing a model hamster habitat. Students must base their designs on their understanding of how the elements of the habitat can work together to meet the needs of the hamster. One lesson is devoted to understanding geometric shapes and how they contribute to the stability of a structure.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This unit weaves Science and Engineering practices throughout the lessons. Students are encouraged to answer and develop their own questions to guide their research based on their observations. They observe phenomena in print format of a variety of animal structures and habitats. In the final activity students develop and refine models based on their research and observations in order to solve a (potential) real-world problem. K-ESS2 and K-ESS3 are solidly addressed through the research conducted by the students and the final model they produce. Structure and Function is clearly addressed in both the natural world (animals) and the designed world (the model they make). Specific information about the three dimensions addressed in this unit are included in the comments section of these areas.

  • Instructional Supports: Everything one needs to conduct this unit is explained and clearly outlined for the instructor. Handouts and student sheets are included. There are specific children's books that are needed for a few of the lessons, but they can be substituted with similar content or electronic resources.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Both formative and summative assessment is embedded throughout the unit. Instructions for each assessment are explicit and the masters are included in the resource. Guiding questions are provided for the instructor as are sample responses and grading rubrics.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -