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Habitat House Hunt

Originally appears in the Spring 2006 issue

All living creatures need a habitat that provides them with the essentials of survival — food, water, shelter, and space — and investigating the unique ways that animals meet these needs can be fascinating. While out-of-classroom experiences in natural settings afford many opportunities for students to learn first hand about the components of habitats, learning about habitats in an urban setting can be challenging. This challenge was the inspiration for Habitat House Hunt, a multidisciplinary activity in which students work in cooperative learning groups to investigate the habitat needs of urban animals.

Habitat House Hunt combines classroom work with outdoor explorations in the schoolyard and incorporates activities that accommodate a variety of learning styles. In the first part of the activity, students play the role of real estate agents who must find suitable homes for animals in the schoolyard or a nearby park. They research the animals’ preferred habitats and demonstrate their understanding of habitat components by identifying appropriate habitats outdoors and creating a property guide for their animal “clients.” In the second part of the activity, the groups exchange property guides and the students switch into the roles of animals who use the guides to find suitable homes for themselves. Here, students integrate their knowledge and understanding in order to evaluate “habitat homes” and predict which one would best suit a particular animal. Drawing strategies from the best practices in education, we have crafted Habitat House Hunt to suit our objectives and our students’ needs. We hope that others will be able to adapt this lesson to suit their needs and environment.

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Kristin Mack-Hammer is an educator at Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois. Janice Denney is the Park Interpreter at Bull Shoals-White River State Park, Lakeview, Arkansas.