Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to teach the difference between structural and behavioral adaptations?

Adaptations...all animals have them. It is how they survive in the wild after all.  Without adaptations, the animals would die out quickly!  Here in Virginia, we have to teach the difference between structural and behavioral adaptations.  So what does that mean?

I try to teach my students that structural adaptations have to do with the "structure" or "outside" of the animal.  These are things we can observe - like feet, eyes, skin coverings, teeth and limbs.  A great book to read to your students when you are teaching this is called Mystery Mouths .  It is a book published by Seeds of Science and has excellent photographs that show different mouths and how they match herbivores (flat teeth for grinding plants), carnivore (canine, sharp teeth for tearing meat) and omnivore (flat and sharp teeth for eating both).  If you want to have even cooler activities the Variation and Adaptation (also from Seeds of Science)has some awesome activities using pictures for analysis including observations and inferences. 
Click to Enlarge
For behavioral adaptations, you need to talk about the behaviors or actions that the animals do.  We show a video (available at for just $14.95) that shows the animals in action.  We make a T chart with animals on one side and behaviors on the other.  Some things we notice is how animals hide, climb trees, squirt ink, spray smells, migrate, hibernate, etc.. to avoid predators and/or find food.

One last resource for today is a website.  It is a little tricky, but well worth walking through as a class.  If you have a projector screen or smart board it would be great to use whole class.
Tomorrow...a lesson from FOSS...observing structural and behavioral adaptations of a crayfish. 

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