Amazing Desert Dwellers
Description: Help your students become desert detectives! In this activity, students learn about the many adaptions desert animals have made to survive in their
challenging habitat. The students then use this information to invent new
creatures well-suited for desert life.
Grade level: 3-4
Objectives: 1) Identify and generalize adaptations desert animals have made to survive in
their unique habitat.
2) Using generalized adaptations, synthesize a new animal which would be able
to survive in a specific desert habitat.
Materials: Cactus Hotel by Brenda Z. Guiberson, published by Owlet (paperback version) and Henry Holt & Company, Inc. (hardcover version)
scavenger hunt graphic organizer
materials for the formation of a class book
Procedure: 1) Introduce the lesson through the reading of Cactus Hotel by Brenda Z.
Guiberson. Discuss the adaptions made by the animals in the story to survive
in the desert (ie: food/water sources, shelter, and movement to find food
2) Distribute the scavenger hunt graphic organizer* and pair up students for
group work at the computers. Challenge students to use the information
presented at the provided web sites to discover the adaptions each animal has made to survive in the particular desert where it lives. Informally assess
understanding through observation of group work and scavenger hunt
3) As a whole group, make a graphic organizer showing the different areas of
the world the animals live in as well as the adaptions made for living in the
particular environments. From this, create a list of general desert animal
adaptations (ie.: coming out only at night, having the ability to radiate heat
off the body, using water efficiently by recycling it in the body, having body
structures such as large feet to aid in movement through sand, etc.).
4) Have each student devise a new animal which incorporates at least three adaptations from the preceding activity and create a page for a class book describing and picturing the animal. For example:
This is a (animal name) . It lives in the (desert name) . My animal adapts to this desert by (animal adaptions described) .
(Student illustrates animal in its desert habitat.)
5) Conference with each student concerning the success of his creation, having
him focus on his animal's ability to survive in a dry environment with
fluctuating temperatures, its capability for collecting its food source of plants
and/or animals, and its ability to move around its environment.
6) As an optional activity, have the students create clay models of their new animals to orally present to the class. Put the animals in a class desert diorama.
Internet Resources: *(Note: These web sites must be bookmarked on each student
computer prior to the scavenger hunt activity.)
Desert Animals & Wildlife Index - DesertUSA
The Living Desert:Animal Portrait List
wcs kids senses section
(Note: The following web site does not have written information pertaining to desert animals,
but it has an abundance of pictures which are great for showing the varied life in desert habitats.)
Sonoran Desert JPEGS 4.0