Students look for signs of animals living in and around trees in the schoolyard, observing how a tree can serve as a habitat or as one part of habitat.
- Copies of Safari Count student page
- Clipboards or hard writing surfaces (alternatively, digital cameras or tablets)
- Hand lenses
- Optional: student-made binoculars from 3: Trees as Habitats
- Plan this activity for a time of year when students are most likely to see animals outdoors, such as fall or spring.
- Before doing the activity, locate an appropriate area on the school grounds that students can explore. SAFETY: Check the site for any hazards such as deep holes, sharp objects, or poisonous or irritating plants.
- Plan to discuss appropriate outdoor behavior, as necessary. All living things, including plants, are to be respected and not injured in any way. Talk with students about following the rule: look, learn, leave alone. This includes leaving alone animals and their food, water, and shelter.
Doing the Activity
- Ask students whether they have ever heard the word “safari,” and ask what kinds of things they might see on a safari. Point out that a safari doesn’t have to be to a faraway place, and that they can even take a safari in their own backyard. Ask, “What might you see on a backyard safari?”
- Tell students that they are going on a safari of the school grounds. You might stimulate their imagination by having them pretend that buildings are mountains and cliffs or that the lawn is a jungle.
- Explain that they will look and listen for signs of animals (including insects) living or visiting there. Tell students that they will need to search carefully to find animals and that they will be more likely to find an animal if they are quiet. Ask students for ideas about where they might look and list their suggestions on the board. Possibilities include on the bark and leaves of trees, on shrubs, in the cracks of sidewalks, among blades of grass, on utility wires, in the soil around plants, along the edges of buildings, under leaves, and on walls and fences.
- Point out to students that in addition to actual animals, they should look and listen for signs of animals. Remind them of the animal signs they found in 3: Trees as Habitats, and ask them what other signs they might find. Possibilities include feathers, nests, animal tracks, leaves that have been nibbled, slug trails, or anthills. Point out that people are animals too, and they can also look for signs of “people life” like candy wrappers or footprints. Point out that people are animals too, and they can also look for signs of “people life.” SAFETY: Remind students about appropriate behavior for working outside. (See Getting Ready for 1: Adopt a Tree activity.)
- Divide students into pairs or small groups. Take them outside and allow a few minutes for them to find two animals or signs of animals. Bring the group together and ask a couple of groups to share they have found so far.
- Challenge students to continue looking for animals and to record the animals or signs they find. Pass out clipboards and copies of the Safari Count student page, or provide digital cameras or tablets, for students to record their findings. You might also distribute hand lenses or have them use the binoculars they made in 3: Trees as Habitats.
- Bring the group together, and invite students to share their experiences and compare their findings. Focus on the following questions:
- What animals did you observe living in our schoolyard?
- What evidence did you find of other animals?
- What do these animals need to live? (food, water, air, shelter, space)
- What kinds of food might animals find on the school grounds?
- Where do these animals get water?
- What kind of shelter might animals find on the school grounds?
- What were the largest and smallest animals you found?
- What surprised you the most?
- Back in the classroom, help students graph the data they collected on the safari. Looking at the graph or graphs, which animals were the most common or most numerous? What other patterns can they see?
Remember to visit the Enrich tab for recommended children’s books that support the science concepts covered in this activity.