Wildlife Habitats and Human Impact
To teach the features of a healthy habitat and what happens to wildlife when the habitat becomes degraded
This active game teaches what a habitat is, and that populations of living things are continuously affected by elements of their environments. Begin by reviewing the definition of habitat, and discuss a habitat’s components. Emphasize food, water, and shelter. (Explain that although it is a component, we will not be using space in this game.) Show the kids hand signals for food (hands to the stomach), water (hands to the mouth), and shelter (hands forming an upside down “V” over the head). Have them practice making the signals quickly as you yell out, “Food ... water ... shelter ... water ... shelter ... food!” Select about a third of the group, and ask them to go to one side and line up. The rest of the group lines up on the other side.
Explain that the kids in the smaller group are a plant-eating animal (choose one appropriate to your location) and that everyone on the other side makes up the animal’s habitat. They must turn their backs to one another. On the count of three, each animal decides what it needs (food, shelter, or water) and each habitat kid decides what he or she will be (food, water, or shelter); each kid (animal or habitat) makes a corresponding hand signal. On the next count of three, both groups turn around and face one another. Remind them that they must choose just one signal (or habitat component) and keep that same signal until the end of that round. They may not change signals after seeing the signals that the other side is making. On the next count of three, the habitat kids stay where they are, and the animals go over to them, get what they need (food, water, or shelter), and bring them (just one habitat component per animal) back to the animal side. If an animal cannot find what he or she needs (e.g., if there is no water left for a thirsty animal making the water hand signal), that animal must die and become a part of the habitat, continuing the cycle of life. Encourage kids to make their “death” dramatic and fun so they won’t want to cheat in order to “stay alive.”
Demonstrate the game with the help of one of the students. (You be the animal, and have the student be a habitat component.) Play several rounds and watch the animal population fluctuate. Next, ask the animals to turn their backs while the habitat gathers around you. (It is a good idea to have another teacher distract the animals during this time if possible.) Say, “People have trampled the meadows. There is no food left for the animals, only water and shelter. So you can only make the signals for water and shelter, not food.” Play a round, and then announce that all the hungry animals are dead animals because there is no food. Next, gather the habitat around you again and say, “People have polluted all the water. There is no food and no water now—only shelter. You can only make the signal for shelter!”
Play another round, and then announce that all the thirsty and hungry animals are dead animals because there is no food and no water. For the last round, tell the habitat that all of the trees have been chopped down and that there is no more shelter. Have them sit down quietly, and tell them that when the animals turn around to face them, they should just smile and wave. All the animals die. Explain that this is what happens when we don’t take care of habitats. If we cut a tree down or pollute a river, we are not just affecting that tree or that river. We are also affecting many living things. Everything is connected.
This lesson plan is an activity from the Environmental Activities for Youth Clubs and Camps, a resource developed by the Peace Corps Office of Overseas Programming and Training (OPATS). It was contributed by Peace Corps/Armenia.