Adaptations for Survival: Grades 3-5: I Live Where?

Christine Ann Royce
Type Category
Instructional Materials
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 March, 2017 Science and Children article gives suggestions for using the book Beneath the Sun to create a 5E lesson where students research a particular habitat in order to identify (1) an animal that lives in the habitat and (2) the adaptations that help the animal survive in that particular habitat. The portion of the lesson that is for grades 3-5, I Live Where?, is on the last three pages of the journal article.


Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

3-LS4-3 Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence could include needs and characteristics of the organisms and habitats involved. The organisms and their habitat make up a system in which the parts depend on each other.

Assessment Boundary: none

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
After researching a particular habitat and the animals that live there, the students must explain what characteristics animals would need to survive in different habitats. Then, the students are presented with pictures of three different rabbits (a jackrabbit with long ears, an arctic rabbit with white fur, and a marsh rabbit with small, rounded ears) and asked to apply what they have learned to predict in which habitat the rabbit would best survive. The rabbit pictures can be found on the NSTA Connections site: .

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
Each student pair studies a different habitat and then compare their information about habitats with other groups. Each group will explain to the group what characteristics they think the animal would need to survive in their habitat. The classroom discussion will help them to develop a group consensus about what characteristics each animal would need to survive in the different habitats.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
As the teacher is reading the book, Beneath the Sun, the article suggests guiding questions that help the student to understand that animals have certain needs that must be met in order to survive. Questions like, "What do you think would happen to the frog if it spent too much time out of the water and in the Sun?" guiding the students to uncover how an animal might not survive if the habitat does not meet their needs. Students will work in pairs to research a particular habitat (grassland, coniferous forest, deciduous forest, tropical rain forest, mountain, savanna, desert, polar ice, and tundra) and develop a list of characteristics that describe the animals that live there.

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
By examining how different animals discussed in Beneath the Sun have different features that help them to survive in a hot environment, the student is looking a several different substructures and parts that serve the same purpose on different animals. For example, the large ears on a jackrabbit help its body to rid itself of heat in a desert environment.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson allows students to examine and make sense of the phenomena of animal adaptation. They are allowed to research a habitat, and then must construct an argument (with evidence) about the characteristics an animal would need to survive in that habitat. The structure and function of animal features are examined to use as supporting evidence in the argument.

  • Instructional Supports: The activity I Live Where? provides opportunities for students to express, clarify, and justify their ideas to their classmates. The activity deals with a real-life phenomenon, is scientifically accurate, and grade appropriate. The lesson does not provide any differentiated instruction for English Language Learners or students that need remediation or acceleration. If an equivalent book in their native language could be located, that would help the ELL students to better understand the science concept.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Students are using practices with core ideas and crosscutting concepts to make sense of real-world phenomena, but the assessment pieces in the lesson are limited. Students do present their findings orally to the class, and later they transfer this knowledge to decide which animal is best suited to each environment, but there is no rubric or other grading method provided in this lesson. The 'Where in the World?' student sheet does provide an opportunity for assessment, but could be better fit to relating the structure to its function if students were also asked to explain how a characteristic made the animal well-adapted to its habitat. An alternate form of assessment could have the students choose two photos, one of an animal and one of a habitat, making sure that they are "mixed up". Students could then infer what features about the animal would have to change in order for it to adapt to a new habitat. They could draw/label those changes, sharing them with the class, explaining how those adaptations would help the animal to survive. Another way for the teacher to observe student understanding is to have students create very simple costumes that focus on an adaptation an animal not already addressed in the unit uses to survive in its environment. The student could display the costume, and the class would use evidence to hypothesize what type of adaptation the animal was using to survive.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.