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Tropical Island Flora & Fauna

Create a replica of a tropical island, complete with palm trees, coral reefs, and other wildlife.

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

    1. Invite small groups of students to find out details about a specific tropical island such as its weather, natural resources, and culture. Locate the island on a world map. What plants grow there? Which ones are delicious to eat? Does it have beautiful sandy beaches? A barrier reef? How is living on an island different than living inland?
    2. Once research is complete, challenge student groups to create a replica of the island with authentic flora and fauna. Working on a clean, dry surface such as a paper plate, students flatten a handful of Crayola Air-Dry Clay. Pinch the edges with fingers to form a wavy shoreline. Then add realistic details. Here are a few ideas to try: use craft sticks or other tools to cut the clay; to attach pieces to each other, scratch with a toothpick and press; add a few drops of water if the clay starts to dry.
    3. Show the plants that live on the island. Make a palm tree by rolling out a log of clay. Flatten the trunk slightly. Make bark texture by pressing a clothespin end into it. Attach the tree to the island. Cut out oval palm leaves, score with a toothpick, add cross hatching for palm fronds, and attach. Form tiny balls of clay to make coconuts. Hang near the palm fronds. What other plants grow in abundance on this island? Create them, too.
    4. Many tropical islands have coral reefs and other animal life. Encourage students to create an authentic landscape! Roll out coral in short tubes and attach around the beach. Use a real shell as a mold to make sea shells. Press clay into it and gently pull off. Make fish by cutting ovals in flat clay. Add fins and tails. Add eyes with a toothpick. Cut out starfish and texture them. Add other miniature animals that live on or near the island. Then air-dry the scene for at least 3 days.
    5. Paint with Washable Watercolors and brushes to give your diorama a tropical look. Air-dry the paint. Add another coat for darker colors.
    6. Spread Crayola Texture It! Tempera Mixing Medium to add roughness to sand and coconut shells. Cover sand with Glitter It! to make it glisten. Use Pearl It! on water or shells for a natural look. Air-dry your diorama before displaying.
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    SCI: Obtain and combine information to describe climates in different regions of the world.

    SCI: Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers to support an explanation for changes in a landscape over time.

    SCI: Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features.

    SS: Compare ways in which people from different cultures think about and deal with their physical environment and social conditions.

    SS: Identify and use various sources for reconstructing the past, such as documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, and others.

    SS: Describe and speculate about physical system changes, such as seasons, climate and weather, and the water cycle.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Island: A Story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin; Coral Reefs by Jason Chin; Animals of The Galapagos Islands - An Educational Animal Picture Book For Young Children About Animals (Children's Picture Books) by William Douglas

    Students draw a world map on bulletin board background paper. After researching information about a specific tropical island, students locate it on their world map. Identify all bodies of water near or surrounding the island, sketch in significant landforms, and write a brief description of the outstanding features of this island.

    Encourage students to compare and contrast fish that live in colder and warmer water. Why are some more colorful than others? Create a compare/contrast diorama illustrating the differences between these species of fish. Students prepare a summary paragraph to accompany their diorama.

    What are coral reefs? Why are they becoming endangered? Students investigate coral reefs, locate them on the class world map, and provide information for classmates about what is happening to name these the most endangered ecosystem on Earth.

    What is the ocean food chain? Invite students to investigate and prepare a mural showing the food chain in one area of an ocean or for one large species. What are the consequences when one link in this food chain is disturbed?


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