STEM Tuesday– Survival Science — In the Classroom


When we talk about animals, we are usually talking about their biological make-up: How they look, what they eat, where they live, and how they interact with other animals. But this month we are focusing on a different topic. It’s more about how animals survive in the wild. This is an important idea and one that is a good to explore with your students. Especially because as climates change and humans move into their habitats, animals are needing to work harder to survive.

There are many great books to use in the classroom on our Species Survival  list this month. Here are a few activities that you can use in your classroom:


Hopping Ahead of Climate Change book

Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: Snowshoe Hares, Science, and Survival

by Sneed Collard

This book takes a look at whether animals are able to adapt to climate change to survive. The snowshoe hare is white because normally it is found in areas with a lot of snow. But if those areas have shorter snow periods, its white coat, which normally allows it to hide in plain sight, becomes a very big hindrance. So much so, that it makes itself stand out amongst the greens and browns of the trees, grass, and dirt. This is makes it easy prey for a predator!



Classroom Activity

What traits do animals have that allow them to blend in with their surroundings. Have the students do some research to discover three animals that use their colors as camoflauge  They can start with the snowshoe hare, but come up with two more. There are many of them to choose from. If they can’t think of any, prompt them with: Snake, shark, giraffe, tigers, etc.  Using these animals, have students answer the following questions:

  1. How does the color of the animal help them to blend in with their surroundings?
  2. Does this animal have a pattern that also helps? and if so, how?
  3. Do you think these colors and patterns help them during specific times of the year?
  4. Would their colors and patterns help more in particular seasons of the year or not?
  5. How would that change if the seasons were lengthened or shortened due to climate change?

Have a discussion with the class. Maybe even have the students draw their animals in their original habitat before and after climate change effects to see the difference.


History Comics: The American Bison: The Buffalo’s Survival TaleThe American Bison book

Written and illustrated by Andy Hirsch

While some may be familiar with the history of how great herds of bison roamed across the plains, it might come as a surprise that these creatures not only benefited Native Americans, but also the land on which they lived. This book explores the fascinating ecologicial “triangle” relationship between bison, the prairie grasses of the West, and the Native Americans that lived there. The graphic novel form makes this book easily accessible and fun for kids to read and offers great imagery for teachers to use in their classroom.

Classroom Activity

How can animals actually benefit the environment in which they live? Bison used their own mucus (or snot) to reseed grasses across the prairie. Read the book to learn more about this fascinating trait that allowed bison to also digest the grasses and eat them. Without the bison, the prairie grass had a difficult time growing and expanding across the land. How did the Native Americans help? They provided places with lots of grass for the bison to graze. Discuss how this worked for that environment.

  1. How exactly did the bison use their mucus to eat food?
  2. How were the microbes in the soil beneficial to the bison?
  3. What is cellulose and why is it so hard to digest?
  4. How did the Native Americans use the grasses to bring bison to their area?

Have a discussion with the class about what they have discovered. Can you think of other animals that might have a similar relationship to their own environment?


The Nocturnals Explore Unique Adaptations of Nighttime AnimalsUnique Adaptations of Nighttime Animals

Written by Tracey Hecht

This book takes a look at species survival from the point of view of nocturnal animals. But it presents lesser known animals like the pangolin, woylie, tuatara, aya-aye, and jerboa. It not only features facts but also includes narrative stories about each animal so children can learn about the animals’ nocturnal habits and special adaptations.







Classroom Activity

Have a discussion about nocturnal animals and how they interact with their environments. The cool thing about this book is that it allows for a discussion about nocturnal animals that students may not be familiar with.

  1. What traits make an animal nocturnal?
  2. How are nocturnal animals different from diurnal or crepucular?
  3. Why do you think it might be more difficult for an animal that comes out at night to survive?
  4. Learn about two or three unusual nocturnal animals that you may not have known

Have students pick one nocturnal animal, unknown to them, and draw it, give 3 clues about its habitat, and discuss how it might survive. Have them present their animals to the class. You could even do this as a “Name that animal” type of game and have the student give clues while the other members of the class guess what it is.


The other books in this list all lend themselves to wonderful discussions in the classroom about how animals survive in the wild. Many of these authors also have more information on their websites. So be sure to check them out! This is a great topic for getting your students excited about animals, and getting them to explore unusual environments as they consider how they have a impact on the world.



Jennifer Swanson author

Jennifer Swanson is the award-winning author of 50 books for kids. She is passionate about STEM/STEAM and is the creator of  STEM Tuesday, STEAMTeam Books, and the Solve It! for Kids Podcast. Her views on writing are “For me, writing STEM/STEAM books is about having a conversation with a young reader. It’s about getting them excited about the topic so that they get curious, ask questions, and want to explore more on their own.”

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