By becoming “habitat pen pals,” students learn about the diversity of habitats in their state, and write letters from the perspective of organisms living in those habitats.
One or more 50-minute periods
- Copies of Habitats around the World teacher page
- Pictures of additional animals and habitats (optional, see Getting Ready)
- Student roster
- Chart paper, markers
- Paper and pencils
habitat, pen pal
- Using the Habitats Around the World teacher page, select two or three habitats found in your state that your students may find familiar (such as forest, wetland, and ocean). Make enough copies of those pages so that there is one animal picture for each student in your class. Cut apart the pages, separating the habitat pictures and the animal pictures. (You may wish to supplement with pictures from the Internet of additional animals that live in each habitat.)
- Tape each habitat picture to a separate piece of chart paper labeled with that habitat’s name. Spread the animal pictures out on a table.
- On a student roster, assign an animal to each student and assign student pairs to be secret pen pals, making sure that pen pal pairs have animals from different habitats.
Doing the Activity
- Introduce the activity by reminding students they have explored their schoolyard habitat, but there are many other habitats, near and far. Today, they will explore some other nearby habitats.
- Have the students think of some nearby natural areas. For example, they might think of a nearby park, pond, forest, river, meadow, or even a vacant lot. Write each of these habitats on the board as students mention them.
- Ask the students to name the types of animals that they would expect to live in each of these local habitats.
- Tell the students that there are many different kinds of habitats. Show students the pictures of the two or three habitats you have selected. Have the students try to identify where each habitat might be found and what it might be like there.
- Invite students to come up, one at a time, and choose an appropriate animal picture to tape under one of the habitat pictures. Offer direction, as necessary, on which animals go with which habitats. Tape the pictures on the chart paper to create a poster for each habitat.
- Explain that they’ll be writing a letter to a pen pal from the point of view of an animal. Tell students who their pen pals will be and whisper to each student their assigned animal. Explain that the students should keep their habitats and their animal identities.
- Write the following questions on the board:
- What is your habitat like?
- What other animals live in your habitat?
- What’s a plant that lives in your habitat?
- Why is this habitat a good place to live?
- Tell the students that they should address each of these questions in their letters, but they shouldn’t name either the habitat or the animal they are writing about. Encourage the students to be accurate—yet creative—in the ways they address each point. For example, instead of simply saying, “Beetles live in my habitat,” a pen pal could say, “I had a delicious breakfast of beetles this morning.” Explain that, by addressing each point accurately and with lots of interesting detail, each “animal” will be providing hints about his or her identity and habitat.
- Give students time to write their letters. Have them fold the letter in half and address it to their assigned pen pal.
- Deliver the letters to the appropriate pen pals. Give the students time to read the letters they received and to try to figure out which animal and habitat are described. Then have the students share the letters they received with the rest of the group. (If a student is unable to figure out which animal or habitat his or her pen pal represents, ask for suggestions from classmates.)
Remember to visit the Enrich tab for recommended children’s books that support the science concepts covered in this activity.