Junior Rangers Learning Unit: Animal Classification

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Our second Junior Rangers Learning Unit this month is about Animal Classifications. Summer camp is not just a time for arts & crafts and games, it’s also a great time to learn about nature. Here’s a unit on different animal classifications. You can do just some of these crafts, games, and activities, or spread them all out over the month. If you like this craft, check out our Junior Rangers Unit: Living vs. Nonliving.

Activity #1: Plants vs. Animals
*Discuss: Using photos (or real-life examples if you can), go over the differences between plants and animals.
--Most plants are rooted in place, while animals have the ability to move freely (locomotion).
--Plants are producers – they make their own food through a process called photosynthesis
--Animals are consumers – they are dependent on plants and other animals for food
--Plants give off oxygen and take in carbon dioxide. Animals give off carbon dioxide and take in oxygen.
*Activity: Divide a piece of paper in half and write "Plants" on one side, "Animals" on the other. Draw or cut out of a magazine 3 examples of each.
*Read: this article from the Chicago High School For Agricultural Sciences for more in-depth information on the differences between plants & animals.

Activity #2: Mammals
*Discuss: What are the characteristics of mammals?
--Have fur
--Usually have 2 to 4 legs (except sea mammals)
--Born alive
--Drink mother’s milk
--Breathe air with lungs
--Warm-blooded (their body temperature stays the same)
*Activity: Name some mammals. Talk about how different mammals live in different environments or habitats. Draw your favorite mammal in its habitat.
*Read: A First Look at Mammals by Millicent Ellis Selsam

Activity #3: Fish
*Discuss: What are the characteristics of fish?
--Live in water
--Have scales
--Breathe through gills
--Have fins
--Cold-blooded (their body temperatures vary depending on water temperatures)
--Move their tails side to side
--Lay eggs
*Discuss: How are sea mammals such as whales and dolphins different from fish? (Whales and dolphins breathe air through their blowholes, they are warm-blooded, they give birth to live young, they move their tails up and down.)
*Activity: Read Swimmy by Leo Lionni (link below). Cut a small fish shape out of a sponge. On blue paper, make a fish shape out of chalk. Dip the fish into red paint and sponge paint the inside of the chalk outline with red fish. Dip the fish into black paint and sponge paint the eye.

*Read: Swimmy by Leo Lionni - available at Amazon.com

Activity #4: Birds
*Discuss: What are the characteristics of birds?
--Have feathers & wings
--Most can fly
--Lay eggs
--Bills or beaks
--Lightweight bones (to help them fly)
*Activity: If you were a bird, where would you fly to? What would you look like? Some birds are beautiful, bright colors and others blend in to their surroundings. Draw a picture of what you would like like as a bird, and using pictures from magazines, show an imaginary place to fly over.
*Read: Feathers and Fur by Audrey Penn

Activity #5: Amphibians
*Discuss: Name some amphibians. (frogs, toads, salamanders) What are the characteristics of amphibians?
--Can live on land AND in water
--Start their life cycle in the water, and move to land in adulthood
--Lay eggs
--Most undergo a metamorphosis (like a tadpole to a frog)
*Discuss: The life cycle of a frog: egg ? tadpole (with flat tails and gills) ? frog (arms & legs grow, tail disappears, gills turn into lungs)
*Activity: Compare amphibians to fish. Make a similarities and differences chart.
*Activity: Cut out a green lily pad and glue onto blue paper (for your pond). Add some green construction paper grass on one side. Draw all three stages of the frog lifcycle – the eggs on the bank of the pond (covered in a clear jelly), the tadpoles swimming in the water, and the frog on the lily pad or in the grass.
*Read: In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming

Activity #6: Reptiles
*Discuss: Name some reptiles. (snakes, turtles, lizards) What are the characteristics of reptiles?
--Most lay eggs
--Have 4 legs or no legs (snakes)
--Body is covered with scales, not skin or fur (unlike mammals)
--Body is dry (unlike amphibians)
--Babies resemble adults (unlike amphibians)
*Discuss: Most snakes are actually quite helpful by eating mice, insects, and even other snakes. Some snakes are venomous and quite dangerous. Be sure your children can identify any snakes local to you that they should stay away from.
*Activity: Make paper chain snakes. Cut out strips of different colored construction paper and string together in a paper chain. Decorate the front ring like a face.

*Read: The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble available at Amazon.com

Activity #6: Insects, Butterflies, & Spiders
*Discuss: What are the characteristics of insects?
--3 body parts
--6 legs
*Activity: Out of different colored construction paper, cut out circles in various colors and sizes. Cut out different colored legs and wings. Have your children create their own bug using 3 circles for the body, 6 legs, and 2 wings.
*Activity: Make our Bug Noisemakers

*Discuss: What are the characteristics of spiders?
--2 body parts
--Spin a web
--8 legs
--Hair all over their body
*Discuss: Most spiders are quite helpful keeping the insect population down, but some spiders are poisonous and very dangerous. Be sure your children know how to identify local spiders and stay away from the more dangerous ones.
*Activity: Make a spider. Use a paper plate painted or colored black for the spider’s body. Then using strips of black paper, fold them accordion style and add 4 to each side of the paper plate for the legs. Add a black circle for the head.
*Activity: Play Pin the Spider to the Web. Using stick-on Velcro, make a web on a piece of poster board. Decorate with glitter. Make a few small spiders and put the Velcro on the back of the spiders. Kids take turns pinning their spiders to the web.

*Read: The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle available at Amazon.com
*Discuss: What are the characteristics of butterflies?
--Eggs ? caterpillar ? Chrysalis (cocoon) ? Butterfly/Moth
--3 body parts
--2 pairs of wings
--need the warmth of the sun to fly
*Read: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle available at Amazon.com
*Activity: Make your own very hungry caterpillar and beautiful butterfly.

This activity can be found in our Games & Activities section.