Lesson 3: Adaptation Experiments
Goal: Learn about adaptations and conduct experiments to test different penguin features and characteristics
Materials: Penguin Adaptations Student Worksheet 4; sink (or large tub); water; paper; empty paper cup; sand or small rocks; paper towel tube cut in sections; petroleum jelly; two identical bottles; white paint; black paint; and a thermometer
Time required: 40 minutes
1. Explain: Plants and animals adapt to the places where they live. An adaptation is a way a living being adjusts or changes to do well where it lives. Ask students what they do to come to school. Do they bring a backpack? Do they bring a lunch? What do they wear? This is a kind of adaptation.
2. Point out that birds have feathers for very good reasons. Feathers are an adaptation.
3. Draw a feather on the board. Explain that the filaments (fibers or threads) cross over and lock into other filaments. Though feathers are light, they give lots of insulation. Emperor penguins have more feathers per square inch than any bird.
Discover the facts:
4. Distribute Student Worksheet 4 to students and read the introduction together.
5. Explain: The callouts around the photo of the gentoo penguin highlight important penguin adaptations.
6. Read the facts and encourage older students to highlight the facts on the sheets. With all students, discuss the facts, and allow them to share what they know and did not know. You may need to explain the following term:
Gland: an organ that removes certain substances from the blood and releases them as another substance
7. Tell students that streamlining is making something into a shape that offers reduced resistance to air, water, or other fluids. Ask students to identify other streamlined objects such as airplanes, racing bikes, and ships. These objects cut through air and water. Additional information for older students:
- Body Shape: Drag is the force that opposes the object's forward motion through a fluid.
- Oily Feathers: When an object moves through a fluid (as when a penguin moves through water), there are molecules in the fluid (water) and molecules on the surface of the object (feathers). Oily or waxed surfaces offer less friction than rough ones and move more smoothly against each other.
8. Help students assemble the materials needed to complete the experiments on Student Worksheet 4. Experiments can be completed in small groups or as a class, depending on time and the age of students.
9. Write the following Observation Questions on the board and explain that recordkeeping is important in scientific research.
- What I tested
- Materials I used
- Steps I followed
- What I saw
- What I concluded
- Younger Students: Challenge younger students to think about their own features and consider why they work so well for humans.
- Math Extension: Expand the bottle project by charting the temperatures at intervals throughout the day.
- Science Extension: After studying science facts, it is time for some science fiction! Ask students to imagine an adaptation that would help people live in Antarctica. What strange, new feature would help people live in such an extreme place? Younger students can draw pictures of their ideas. Older students can build models of their adaptations or develop experiments to test their concepts.
This program meets education standards including the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, and National Science Education Standards. Click below for your grade's curriculum matrix: