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Elephant Ears—African or Asian?

How can you tell an Asian elephant from an African elephant? Discover distinct differences, and similarities, between the species.

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
    Grade 4
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Ask students if they met up with an elephant, would they know whether it was an African or Asian elephant? Students find out how these endangered species are alike and different. Which is bigger? How are their heads and backs shaped? What is different about the texture and shape of their trunks?
    2. African elephant’s ears are shaped like the continent of Africa and are bigger, growing up to 6 ft (1.8 m). An Asian elephant’s ears look a bit like India and are somewhat smaller, about 5 ft (1.5 m). Elephants have a unique system of cooling off. They flap their ears to generate a breeze, but more than that the blood vessels in their ears are close to the surface so they cool off quicker than the rest of their body. No two elephants have the same blood vessel patterns in their ears, either.
    3. Show what you know about their differences and similarities in a 3-D (bas-relief) picture. Outline the two elephant species with Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils. The colors erase easily if you make a mistake! Be sure to label which elephant is which.
    4. With Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils, draw the elephants’ features, such as small eyes, wrinkly skin, and useful truck.
    5. Color white Crayola Model Magic® with color from a black Crayola Gel Marker. Blend to mix a gray elephant-skin color. Shape one African and one Asian elephant ear. Air-dry the ears. With Crayola School Glue, connect the ears to the correct elephants. For a firm background to hold up the elephants, glue your paper on cardboard.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of aspects of a topic.

    LA: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

    SCI: Ask questions about the natural and human-built worlds.

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

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Elephants: A Book for Children by David Henry Wilson; National Geographic Readers: Great Migrations Elephants by Laura Marsh; Eyewitness: Elephant by Ian Redmond

    Students create a map of the world with country boundaries marked, bodies of water labeled, etc. Students research where Asian and African elephants make their habitats and label these on their maps.

    Students investigate the unique characteristics of elephant skin and trunks. What are the remarkable features of elephant skin? Their trunks?

    Elephants use their ears as a form of communication. Investigate how elephants use their ears to communicate and share new knowledge with classmates.

    Both African and Asian elephants are on the endangered species list. Research why their populations are decreasing and what measures humans are taking to protect these species from extinction. Organize this research into an electronic presentation for classmates to view.


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