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teaching through trade books

Animal Survival

Science and Children—March/April 2023 (Volume 60, Issue 4)

By Christine Anne Royce

Structures and processes are two broad categories that provide information about animals and what helps them to survive. This issue, we examine one of each. The first relates to how animal parents have certain behaviors that help their offspring grow, develop, and survive. The second begins to look at how animals have different types of eyes that provide information and assist in their survival.



By Janell Cannon

Illustrated by Pierre Pratt

ISBN: 978-0544874350

Clarion Books

48 pages

Grades preK–3


When the newly born fruit bat Stellaluna is knocked away from her mother during an owl attack, she finds herself being raised by a family of birds. Through their adventures, Stellaluna realizes she is not a bird but rather a bat and should behave in a different way.

Who's Looking?

Who’s Looking? How Animals See the World

Carol Matas

Illustrated by Cornelia Li

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2676-2

Orca Book Publishers

32 pages

Grades 1–4


An excursion outdoors provides an opportunity for a young girl and her sister to be “seen” by different animals. The book explains how different animals see the girls, which is different than how the girls might see the animals. The story and illustrations use a creative approach to helping describe the different adaptations to sight that animals have for survival.

Grades K–2:  Parent Behavior


Through the use of a fictional story, students recognize that different species of animals behave in different ways that help them to survive.


  • Stellaluna
  • Chart paper
  • Supplemental Resources at (list of books, animal pictures, and information page template)


Begin with the question “Do you think all babies can do everything they need to survive by themselves?” Ask the students to describe things their parents do that help them in their daily life. When students have created a list of these items that are recorded on the chart paper, ask them to consider which things are essential to survival. For example, cooking meals so that they can eat or keeping them warm, whereas buying them toys is not essential. After discussing these behaviors, share Stellaluna with the class. Before reading, remind students that some books are fictional or pretend and this particular book is one of them. However, as you read you want them to focus on the different things that are done that help Stellaluna survive. Focus on the following points:

pp. 1–4 Carefully look at the picture of the bat. What do you notice about the chest or underside of the bat? What could that be? (It is the baby bat called a pup.) Why do you think the mother has the baby bat hanging on to her chest? What is the mother bat looking for?

pp. 5–8 Do you really think that baby bats can say “mother?”  How do baby animals communicate with their parents or others?

pp. 9–14 What were some of the things that the mother bird was doing to help her babies grow, develop, and survive? Why do you think that Stellaluna wasn’t happy about eating bugs? What are some of the other behaviors that birds have that Stellaluna tried to mimic or copy? What part of this story is pretend? Do you think birds can really try and hang upside down by their feet?

pp.15–18 Both the baby birds and Stellaluna could fly. What was different about when they tried to land?

pp. 27–36 When Stellaluna fell asleep hanging by her thumbs, other bats found her and asked why she was doing this. What information did Stellaluna learn about birds and bats that is different? What is pretend on these pages? What is the information about birds and bats that is factual on these pages?

pp. 41–42 Pip the bird asks, how can we feel so different and be so much alike. Can you tell me things that are similar between birds and bats? What about things that are different?


This Explore section asks students to utilize both texts and videos to begin to identify ways that animal parents feed, teach, care for, and comfort their offspring, which helps them to survive. Using a selection of books, pose the open-ended question, “Can you find examples of where animal parents care for their young?” and ask the students to generate questions that they have about the pictures. A list of recommended books is provided in the Supplemental Resources. As students look at the books, record the questions they generate and examples they find on chart paper. After the students have had a chance to look at the books, share the videos one at a time and ask them to think about what behavior is being demonstrated by the parent that helps the offspring survive. Were they able to answer any questions they had? Did new questions arise?

Which Animals Carry Their Babies:

How Animal Moms Help Their Babies Move:

Best Animal Moms: (Protecting Their Babies):

Ultimate Animal Moms - Teaching Lessons:


Place the following words across the board: Teaching, Feeding, Caring for/Comforting and discuss what each means. Share the following pictures (see Supplemental Resources) with the students and ask them to describe what behavior each parent is demonstrating that helps their baby or offspring survive. The pictures include:

  • Baby monkey being carried by the parent.
  • Mother bird brings food to and feeds her babies.
  • Adult elephants keep their baby close with their trunks.
  • Cat cleaning its kitten.

Ask the students to determine if the animal parent is teaching, feeding or, taking care of their young in each picture. Ask the students to connect these categories of behaviors back to their own parents or guardians and the list that was originally made. Which of the original behaviors on the list represent taking care of, teaching, etc.?


Using the list of ways that animals care for their offspring, ask the students to create an information page (see Supplemental Resources) that includes the animal and an illustration and/or description of how the animal feeds, teaches, and cares for their young. Once students have had a chance to create their own page, engage them in an activity where they consider the different ways each of those behaviors occur. For example, ask all the students who have animals that bring food to their young to go to one corner while all of the animals who nurse their young to another. When students are in those groups, ask them to share which animal they researched with the other students. By doing this additional step, students begin to understand that there are different ways that each of these behaviors occur.


Students begin by sharing their own understanding of what actions or behaviors animals do that help their offspring survive. This sets the stage for students exploring animal behaviors using books and videos. Finally, students demonstrate their understanding that different behaviors such as feeding, teaching, caring for, and comforting exhibited by a parent help offspring grow, develop, and survive through describing and discussing these behaviors.


Grades 3–5: What Big Eyes You Have


Students explore how the sense of sight is different for different animals and how that helps them to survive.


  • Who’s Looking? How Animals See the World
  • Butcher paper
  • Markers
  • Objects that flash or move
  • Safety goggles
  • Supplemental Resources at (Who’s Looking student sheet, pictures of animals, information page template, goggle modification instructions)


Ask the student to describe what they see when they look at something directly ahead of them. This will likely be a bit confusing to students. To help, have them focus on how much they see from the corners of their eyes or their peripheral vision without turning their head. Now ask them to consider some of the challenges that seeing only directly in front of them might create for different animals. Share the story Who’s Looking? How Animals See the World with the class and as you do, stop and allow them time to look at the illustrations on the following pages as you discuss the points.

pp. 1–4 When you look at the illustrations, what do you think the lines that are moving out from the baby and young girl’s faces represent? Do you think every animal has the same field of vision? Why or why not?

pp. 5–6 Why do you think it is important that some animals can detect movement?

pp. 7–10 Why would a goat’s vision which allows them to see more detail both on the sides and in front help them avoid predators? Why would being able to see in all directions like a dragonfly help make them a predator?

pp. 11–16 Animals on these pages all have the ability to see more colors or the inability to see some colors. Why would color be an important part of where these animals live and look for food?

pp. 17–20 Eagles and mice both rely on movement for detecting things. How does this help an eagle find prey? Why does being able to sense movement at night help a mouse avoid being eaten?

pp. 21–28 What are some of the other adaptations that animals have that they use in addition to their eyesight to survive?


Using different stations, ask the students to engage in simulations that let them investigate how the placement of the eyes impacts the field of vision and also helps the animal survive. At each station, ask the students to record their observations and thoughts on the Who’s Looking student sheet (see Supplemental Resources).

Station #1: Peripheral Vision

Place butcher paper on the table and mark one spot on the butcher paper at the place the person is sitting at the table. This spot represents where the student would sit. Ask students to sit at a table and place both arms out in front of them at chest level and make observations about what they can see. Have them describe those observations. Now, ask the students to leave one arm extended directly in front of them while slowly moving the other arm to the side. Without turning their head, ask them to stop moving their arm when they can no longer see it out of the side of their eye or using their peripheral vision. Have their partner record or mark on the butcher paper the angle that their arm is at when the student can no longer see it in their peripheral vision. Repeat with the other arm. Then repeat this process with the other partner. Using the center mark on the butcher paper that indicated where they were sitting, draw a line to the mark showing where they no longer saw their arm on each side. This angle roughly represents their field of vision.

Station #2: Seeing in the Light and Dark

Some animals such as the mouse can see in the dark, but what they see is blurry. Ask students to place the modified goggles on (see Supplemental Resources), which will create a situation that makes their vision blurry. First, remind the students that they should listen to their partners, so they do not fall. Have a path where students can walk forward with assistance in the classroom. Then, ask the partners to turn the person toward the location that represents the direction of travel and slowly walk them forward. The “mice” should consider what they can see and what they can’t see. Have other students who are further away at the end of the room move as animals might move (rabbits hop, birds flap their wings, etc.). Ask the “mouse” to describe the movement that they see and make inferences as to what animal might move in that way.

Station #3: Attentive Animals

The rabbit and the owl both have different adaptations that help them see in a wider field of vision. One turns their head while the other has eyes on the sides of their head, allowing a larger field of vision. Place objects that students would need to locate at various places in the room that would be close to the walls. These objects can either flash, such as a light or other device, move, such as a toy that jumps or simply glow. The idea is that something about the object would catch the animal’s eye against the background. Have the student stand in the center of the back wall. Ask the students to walk in a straight line through the center of the room, slowly turning their heads one way and then the other, looking for their prey. This would represent what the owl does. For the rabbit, ask the student to sit in one spot of the room and turn their head from side to side to model a much greater field of vision like the rabbit. While they do this, other students should try to sneak up on them.


Return to a large group setting and share the pictures of animals one at a time (see Supplemental Resources). These pictures represent the animals in the book, as well as other animals. Ask the students to make observations about the placement of the eyes and describe if the animal is more likely a predator or prey and why. As the students are engaging in the discussion, ask them to answer the following questions:

  • Why is the placement of eyes an adaptation for animals? How does this adaptation help different animals survive?
  • If an animal has eyes on the sides of their head, do you think they are a predator or prey? Explain why. What if an animal has eyes more toward the front of their head?


The field of vision is only one type of adaptation that animals have that helps them survive. Divide the students into different groups and provide each group with one of the following animals to research. Before you do, explain that each animal has a special type of eye that helps them to survive and that they are asked to create a page similar to the ones in the book that describes how that animal’s eye helps it to survive. Students can use the template (see Supplemental Resources) provided to create their information pages. The animals and the adaptation of their eyes are:

  • Compound eyes – dragonflies, fly, bees, crabs
  • Lensed eyes – fish, red-tail hawks
  • Pinhole eyes – giant clam, nautilus
  • Camera eyes – humans


Students begin by sharing their initial thoughts related to how sight might help with survival. Through participation in the stations, students begin to connect how the field of vision and different adaptations for eyes help animals to survive. They also begin to connect how the placement of eyes indicates if an animal is a predator or prey. Finally, they research other types of eyes that are present in the animal kingdom.

Christine Anne Royce ( is a professor at Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, and past president of NSTA.

Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Life Science Literacy Elementary

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