Animal Diversity

AAAS -American Association for the Advancement of Science; Advancing Science Serving Society- Science NetLinks
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
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.



This lesson exposes children to a wide range of animals and guides them through observation of animal similarities, differences, and environmental adaptations. This lesson can be used as part of a study of plants and animals and the interdependent relationships in ecosystems. Before doing the lesson, students should know the meanings of the terms plant, animal, and living. The lesson also shows that stories sometimes give plants and animals attributes that they do not really have.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
  • Grade 2
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

2-LS4-1 Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the diversity of living things in each of a variety of different habitats.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include specific animal and plant names in specific habitats.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Because this lesson includes only online observations, which compare the diversity of life in different habitats, students also will need ongoing opportunities for hands-on observation (using hand lenses, if appropriate) with many kinds of living plants and animals in as many habitats as possible. Also, because the main lesson concentrates only on animals, students will need similar lessons that focus on plants.

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
To illustrate the main concepts in the lesson, a book titled The Adventures of Marco and Polo by Dieter Wiesmuller is read. This story explores the life of a monkey and a penguin that become friends. They visit each other's homes and decide that they'd like to live together but realize that they each have their own needs and have to live in their own habitats. This story is an opportunity to address student misconceptions through observations and comparisons about animal attributes in fictional stories that they do not have in real life. The animal gallery extension activity allows students to observe and compare animals in various habitats. Explicit guiding questions from the teacher about different habitats would allow students to express, clarify, and justify their ideas as students compare the animals in their habitats. Example: Why can’t Marco live in Polo’s habitat?

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
This lesson description implies that different habitats and animal adaptations will be discussed. Teachers should make sure to use the animal gallery extension activity or their own resources, but students need to observe and compare animals in various habitats on land and in water. Discussions to compare the animal life and where the organisms live within the habitat help students understand the concept that the animals are similar yet different from other animals in the habitat. Examples: Water creatures have fins and/or gills. Many animals on land have four legs or fly. Some live in nests and eat berries. Others live in dens and eat smaller animals. Having students record which animals live in various habitats allows the students to make comparisons about the diversity of life within habitats.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
No Crosscutting Concept is listed in the NGSS for this performance expectation. Structure and function is suggested as students explore why plants and animals are best suited for certain environments. Students need the opportunity observe and compare why the living thing’s features help it adapt and survive in the environment.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The three dimensions are not addressed equally. The practice of making observations is used when students actively observe and compare photos of animals in different habitats. To strengthen this practice, students could record which animals live in a variety of habitats. It is implied that students will compare the animals in one habitat to other animals in contrasting habitats. Teachers should have students discuss and record how an animal’s adaptations support its survival in the environment. This better addresses the suggested Crosscutting Concept. Animals are the focus of the lesson, but further observations of plants and comparisons of the diversity of plant life in different habitats would address the whole Performance Expectation.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson plan provides an online book of animals with an esheet of questions and sample responses. Students are asked questions by the teacher to compare how animals are alike and different in a habitat. Students respond to the teacher and could take part in discussion between peers to express, clarify, justify, interpret, and represent their ideas about what and how animals live in the habitats. To make this resource stronger, students need the opportunity to research independently more habitats and living things within the areas in order to compare why all living creatures cannot live in the same habitats. Students could use a science journal to record how animals are able to survive in the environment to further address the suggested Crosscutting Concept.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: No formal assessment tool is provided, but student responses from the Animal Diversity student esheet help the educator monitor students' understanding of animal adaptations in their environments. Having students keep a science journal with drawings, labels, and or sentences about the animals observed in habitats allows students to see that animals have adaptations that allow them to survive in the habitat. Students can also role-play how the animals they observed or researched can survive within the habitats.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The online Animal Diversity book could be more interactive if placed in a computer based reading station where students partnered and discussed the observed animals and noted how the animal was able to live in the given environment.