Teachers and families across the country are facing a new reality of providing opportunities for students to do science through distance and home learning. The Daily Do is one of the ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families with this endeavor. Each weekday, NSTA will share a sensemaking task teachers and families can use to engage their students in authentic, relevant science learning. We encourage families to make time for family science learning (science is a social process!) and are dedicated to helping students and their families find balance between learning science and the day-to-day responsibilities they have to stay healthy and safe.
Interested in learning about other ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families? Visit the NSTA homepage.
Sensemaking is actively trying to figure out how the world works (science) or how to design solutions to problems (engineering). Students do science and engineering through the science and engineering practices. Engaging in these practices necessitates that students be part of a learning community to be able to share ideas, evaluate competing ideas, give and receive critique, and reach consensus. Whether this community of learners is made up of classmates or family members, students and adults build and refine science and engineering knowledge together.
Today's task is inspired by the NSTA e-Book Home Is Where My Habitat Is. The story follows a jumping spider named Kippy in her search for a new place to live. Though her habitat is small, some of the animals that Kippy encounters live in much larger ones. Diversity doesn't exist just in the types of plants and animals living in a habitat; Kippy journeys through many different types of habitats as well.
In this task, How do living things find a home?, students and their families read the NSTA e-Book Home Is Where My Habitat Is and use the thinking tools of patterns and cause-and-effect (crosscutting concepts) to make sense of the science idea animals live in habitats and changes in habitats affect the animals living there. Opportunities to make connections between local habitats and the habitats Kippy encounters inspire appreciation and stewardship of habitats around the world, as well as close to home.
Before you invite your students to read aloud or read along with you, take a few minutes to become familiar with the e-Book and suggested supporting resource(s).
Watch the How-To video for instructions on how to use the e-Book with your children.
Open the Home Is Where My Habitat Is e-Book. You may want to pause here and read the e-Book to identify pages with (a) big ideas you want to emphasize through questioning and/or discussion and (b) embedded tasks that will require students to develop new knowledge and skills to complete.
Have paper and pencil (or computer) ready so that students can record any observations, questions, data, etc. they may have.
Now you're ready to begin today's task!
Kippy lives in the tropical dry forest ecosystem of northwestern Costa Rica. This spider belongs to a species of spiders that eat mostly leaf tips from the acacia trees that grow in the forest. These are the only known vegetarian spiders!
Before you begin reading the book together, ask students to make observations about Kippy as both a young spider (pp 1–29) and adult spider (pp 30–35). Consider asking students to record their observations or recording them together. Clicking on the above pictures will enlarge them.
Ask, "What do you notice about young Kippy?" Help students add details to their noticings by asking follow-up questions. See the example student responses and teacher follow-up questions below.
Next, ask students to observe adult Kippy and share (and/or record) their noticings.
Challenge students to find Kippy on the pages of the e-Book as you read the story together. (Note: Kippy does not appear on every page.)
Page 5. Turn to page 5, but don't read the text or click on the images.
Ask students, "What do you think Kippy needs to survive?"
Next, ask students, "Do we need the same things those ants and Kippy need to survive?" To facilitate the conversation (with other students or family members), give students the following prompts:
Speaker: I think ____ because ____ .
Responder: I hear your say ___ . (to honor speaker's ideas) I agree/disagree because ____ .
Give students a turn in each role. Then ask, "What ideas did you agree with?" It is likely students will agree that humans need shelter, water, and food to survive. (They may not agree with needing space to move around, which is okay. You can return to this idea on page 7.)
Say to students, "Kippy and the ants live in the acacia tree because they can find shelter, water, food, and space to move around. That is a lot to say! We can say the acacia tree is their habitat to mean the same thing."
Then ask, "What is our habitat?" Some students may say their home is a habitat because it has everything they need to survive. Other students may say that their community (neighborhood, town, or city) is their habitat (they may go to the market every day for food; they may live in more than one home; etc.) Make sure to ask them why they say so.
Read page 5 and let students click on and read the image captions.
Page 15. Ask students, "How do you think Kippy is able to 'float off' the leaf and get to another acacia tree?" Accept all ideas. Turn the page and read the first paragraph together.
Return to page 14. Say, "It says that Kippy 'needs to jump' to a different plant. I think I saw Kippy jumping in the video at the beginning of the e-Book. Let's watch the video again and observe how Kippy moves around."
Watch the video on page 4 together. Ask students to keep their eyes on Kippy and notice how she moves around. Students should see Kippy walking/crawling along leaves and hopping/jumping from one leaf to another.
Say, "Kippy can walk, jump, and float on the breeze to move from place to place. Which body parts does Kippy use to move?" Students will likely say the spider uses its legs to walk and hop. Unless you have a spider enthusiast in your class, you will need to share that spiders use a body part called a spinneret to spin (produce) silk (see Spider Anatomy, collection resource 4).
Next, say, "I wonder if there are other animals in the forest that move some or all of the ways Kippy does. Let's watch for animals that walk, jump, or float to move from place to place to place on the next few pages."
Consider creating a table with three columns—walk, jump, and float—before you continue reading the e-Book. Ask students to find animals on pages 16–18 (or throughout book) that walk, jump, or float. Write the name of the animal in the appropriate column(s), and write and/or draw the body part the animal uses to move in this way. Make sure to return to students' observations at the end of the e-Book and ask students to look for patterns in the ways animals use their body parts to move from place to place.
Page 35. Remind students that Kippy and the ants share a habitat. (You might ask them to share how Kippy and the ants get what they need to survive from the acacia tree.) Return to pages 16 and 17 and ask students, "All of these animals eat figs. Do you think this fig tree (point to tree on page) is a habitat for all of these animals? Why do you think so?" This is an opportunity to formatively assess students' understanding of habitat.
Possible student responses and teacher follow-up questions include these:
Summarize by saying, "We agree all of these animals get some of the things they need to survive from this fig tree, so the fig tree isn't a habitat; it's part of these animals' habitats."
Ask students to brainstorm places to look in their community for habitats (home, neighborhood, yard, garden, park, or other green space [big and small]). Then ask, "How could we figure out what plants and animals live in the habitat? How might we tell which animals are part of a larger habitat (and only get some of the things they need to survive in the habitat they are investigating)?"
If you're not sure where to start, check out the How do living things choose a home? collection of resources (bottom of page).
Home Is Where My Habitat Is author Mark Eastburn created a video (below) to share detailed directions for exploring a local habitat and ideas for collecting and analyzing data. Eastburn shows where to find isopods—more commonly known as pillbugs or roly-polies—in your yard or nearby green space (this space doesn't have to be very big). He chose to make isopods the focus because they are easy to find and are likely very familiar to students and their families. Eastburn is passionate about helping students connect classroom science learning to students' local outdoor environment.
See if students and their families (and you, too!) can learn to distinguish between a common pillbug, nosy pillbug, common woodlouse, and rough woodlouse (see collection resources 5-8).
This isopod exploration is appropriate for all age levels and provides an opportunity for students to use Google Sheets to represent and analyze data students collect on their safaris.
NSTA has created a How do living things choose a habitat? collection of resources to support teachers and families using this task. If you're an NSTA member, you can add this collection to your library by clicking "Add to My Library," located near the top of the page (at right in the blue box).
The NSTA Daily Do is an open educational resource (OER) and can be used by educators and families providing students distance and home science learning. Access the entire collection of NSTA Daily Dos.