What flower do you think of when you hear the statement, “Spring flowers are blooming.” Did tulips, daffodils, crocuses, or poppies come to mind?
If you live in southern Arizona, you may have thought of a cactus flower. The desert blooms from March through May, and one of the most spectacular flowers belongs to the Saguaro Cactus—home to many desert critters.
One desert animal, the Kangaroo Rat, is so efficient in converting the dry seeds it eats into water that it needs no other water source.
In this activity students use scientific observation to discover how changes in an animal’s environment can effect water retention.
Note: Refer to the directions below, or download a PDF of this lesson. Additional lesson plans for this book are available on the Dawn Publications website under the “Activities” tab.
Suggested Grade Level: 3-5
- The book Around One Cactus, Owls, Bats and Leaping Rats
- Small sponges, 1 per student or group
- One sponge for the classroom as a control
- Balance scale
- Read aloud the book Around One Cactus. After reading the story, read the “Field Notes” in the back. Discuss some of the special adaptations desert animals use to survive, especially the Kangaroo Rat.
- Provide each student or group with a small sponge saturated with water. Explain to students that this represents a desert animal with a limited amount of water.
- To measure the beginning moisture content, each student or group should use the balance to determine the mass of the sponge. A control sponge should be left unprotected for the experiment’s duration.
- Over a 24-hour period, students should take care of their “animal” in a manner that will best conserve the water it contains using only natural materials. During this 24-hour period, the “animal” must be left out for at least 4 hours to “feed.”
- At the beginning of the experiment invite students to plan a water retention strategy and write it down along with predictions of what will happen.
- During the 24-hour period, students should make and record observations.
- At the end of the allotted times, students should again record the mass of their sponges, compare it with the previous mass, and make inferences about the results in relation to real organisms with limited or temporary water supplies such as the lizards, rats, and foxes mentioned in Around One Cactus.
Common Core Standards (ELA)
Reading Informational Test
~Key Ideas and Details (3.3, 4.3, 5.3)
~Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (3.7, 4.7)
Science Framework Connection
~LS-1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
~LS-2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
~LS-3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation in Traits
~LS-4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity