When teaching children about adaptation of living things in Science, it is important but often difficult to get them to understand why certain animals have developed certain physical features over the course of evolution. This idea will help you to do this, as well as illustrate how the ‘survival of the fittest’ theory comes in.
Choose two animals from very different habitats, e.g. polar bear and African elephant. Discuss with your class how each animal is perfectly designed for its environment (e.g. polar bear has fur with layers of fat underneath; elephant has large ears to fan away pests and let out heat from its body). The class could produce detailed diagrams of the animals’ bodies and how the different components come in useful.
Secondly, create a ‘Polarphant’ and an ‘Elebear’ (polar bear and elephant which have been transported to the opposite environments and adapted appropriately). This will really get the children thinking about what they would need to change about the animal if it moved habitats and why some animals survive above others.
Finally, the really fun bit – as an extension activity or for early finishers, let the children choose one habitat (e.g. desert, forest, Amazon, mountainous, subterranean, oceanic…) and let them design their own imaginary animal specially made for this environment.
This honestly produces some lovely work for display, and I have had great results when using it just before an end-of-term test if I know there is going to be an adaptation question!