Fifth-Grade Students Study Animal and Plant Adaptations

What does it take for an animal or plant to survive in different habitats? Answer: Adaptations, or unique features, that allow it to grow and thrive.

With the help of a naturalist from Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES’ Center for Environmental Education, fifth-grade science students at George Fischer Middle School reviewed and discussed several diverse types of animals and plants, and their unique traits for survival, during a recent science lesson.

Students look at hissing cockroaches in presenters hands

What exactly is an adaptation?

“How animals and plants change depending on their environment in order to survive,” said student Trevor Cordone.

“Changing or getting used to something in order to survive,” said student Ryley Matos.

During the program, students learned about animal classifications, habitats, and adaptations such as camouflage that animals and plants utilize to survive. The presentation reviewed animals within several diverse habitats including ocelots, Whistling Thorn Acacia trees, bats, cacti, tuna and more.

When reviewing the different animals and plants, the students were posed a question: What can you see about this animal that helps it survive in its environment?

The ocelot, a medium-size cat-like creature that lives in tropical climates, has many adaptations that the young scientists noticed.

“Whiskers to sense things,” said student Arya Bates.

“Sharp teeth and claws,” added student Hunter Hurlie.

“Their stripes that look like grass,” said student Trevor Cordone.

The ocelot’s striped coat provides protection in its habitat because it mimics the shade and the sunlight coming through the different plants in the rainforest. Its whiskers, teeth and claws help it to protect itself but also to catch its prey in order to eat.

Students also learned that the Scarlet Macaw, with its bright colors, is also camouflaged in the rainforest. But how?

“The rainforest has bright colors, and flowers can be the right colors for macaws to hide,” said student Andrew Kelley.

The lesson also focused on adaptations of plants including a Whistling Thorn Acacia tree found in the savannahs of Africa. Students learned that the tree adapted to grow thorns around its seeds to prevent giraffes from eating them. When the giraffes adapted to not be bothered by the thorns, the tree adapted again to form a mutualistic relationship with species of ant that now live on the trees. These ants live among the thorns and bite giraffes when they try to eat the seeds. The ants live on and feed off the leaves in the tree while providing the protection that the tree needs for its seeds.

Our students even had the opportunity to see some live animal ambassadors up-close: Madagascar hissing cockroaches. This species has adapted to hiss as a way to scare off predators.

Thankfully, there was no need to scare off our young scientists because they enjoy fun and informative science lessons.