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Almost Alive Alligator

Curious about toothy tyrants? Research the differences between alligators and crocodiles and then make your own marshy monster.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Students research Alligators. Have them look at pictures of alligators and note their unique physical characteristics. How are they different from crocodiles? What can they tell about their habitat and lifestyle by their appearance? When they have gathered the information they need, have students sculpt an accurate replica of an alligator. Here’s how the one pictured was made.
    2. Use a small recycled plastic container such as a salad dressing bottle as an armature. The neck of the bottle is the tail. Tape on chunks of crumpled aluminum foil to smooth out and shape the head and body.
    3. Cover the entire head and body with a thin layer of Crayola Model Magic® compound. Shape an open mouth. Model Magic sticks to itself and most surfaces.
    4. Students use modeling tools or their fingers to indent eye sockets and nostrils. Roll out two small balls and place them in the eye sockets. Add pupils.
    5. Create legs by rolling four long tubes, making them thicker at one end. Fold to form alligator legs. Create toes by rolling small, pointy hotdog shapes. Add them to the end of the legs.
    6. Roll out a slab and cut small triangles. Line up the spikes along the alligator’s back.
    7. For the lining of the mouth, mix a very small amount of red Model Magic with a larger amount of white Model Magic to get pale pink. Spread a thin layer inside the mouth.
    8. Cut many small pointy triangles from white Model Magic for teeth. Line the upper and lower jaws with them.
    9. Model Magic air-dries to the touch overnight and is completely dry in about 3 days.
  • Standards

    LA: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

    LA: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

    LA: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

    SCI: Construct drawings or diagrams as representations of events or systems.

    SCI: Construct explanations of phenomena using knowledge of accepted scientific theory and linking it to models and evidence.

    SCI: Use words, tables, diagrams, and graphs to communicate understanding or to ask questions.

    SS: Examine the interaction of human beings and their physical environment, the use of land, building of cities, and ecosystem changes in selected locales and regions.

    SS: Describe instances in which changes in values, beliefs, and attitudes have resulted from new scientific and technological knowledge, such as conservation of resources and awareness of chemicals harmful to life and the environment.

    SS: Identify examples of laws and policies that govern scientific and technological applications, such as the Endangered Species Act and environmental protection policies.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

    VA: Select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

  • Adaptations

    Prior to the creation of the alligator model, students can create pictures or dioramas of alligators. These projects should picture the alligators in their natural habitats. Students can write a one-paragraph summary describing their pictures.

    Research can be done focusing on other reptiles. Students can use this additional research to compare and contrast to their alligator research. A visual (picture illustration or diorama) should accompany this additional research, including a one-paragraph summary.

    Research challenges humans have had when interacting with alligators. Write an essay that could be used by humans to keep them safe when sharing outdoor space with alligators. Student research should be reflected in the safety essay. Pose this writing for viewing. This research could also be made into a public service message. Students can videotape the presentation and have it available for viewing in the classroom.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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