National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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6 - 8
Two 60-minute sessions
In this lesson, students will identify basic animal behaviors and hypothesize what causes them. Students will also discover the responsibilities of an animal physiologist.
- Stapler & Masking tape
- All About Mealworms information sheet
1 Per Group:
- Construction Paper
- 2 resealable, quart-size plastic bags
- Lightweight paper
- 10 Mealworms (Mealworms can be purchased from a pet or fishing bait store)
- Hand lens
- Significant Surroundings Lab handout
- 3 sheets of colored construction paper
- Crayons, markers, or colored pencils
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- Additional Background Information-Commonly Asked Questions
- Significant Surroundings Lab Sheet
- All About Mealworms
animal physiologist: a career area studying and observing animals in their natural environment
behavior: the way in which an animal acts in response to a particular situation or stimulus
environment: the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates
well-being: the contentment of an animal measured by indicators including behavior, physiology, longevity, and reproduction
livestock: domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food and fiber
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- An animal physiologist conducts research to observe and discover how animals react to factors such as temperature, air quality, disease, diet, and poisons.1
- An animal physiologist may work at a university and teach classes in addition to conducting research.1
- Animal physiologists may also work for a pharmaceutical, feed or other company.1
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Have students brainstorm the senses they use to interact with the world around them. Ask students to close their eyes and use their remaining senses (hearing, taste, touch, and smell) to observe their current environment. Facilitate this interaction by prompting them to notice their surroundings with the following questions: What do you feel? What do you smell? What do you hear?
- Ask students to open their eyes and briefly discuss their observations. Explain that by making observations, they are acting as animal physiologists. The word “physiologist” comes from the Greek word “physis,” meaning “nature” or “natural” and “ologist,” which means “one who studies.” Animal physiologists make observations, or study, how animals naturally interact within their environment. “Environment” is a term that describes the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates. An animal’s environment can positively or negatively affect the animal’s well-being. An animal physiologist works to make sure that an animal’s environment includes the ideal temperature, air flow, and shelter they need to be healthy. Remind students that animals can’t explain how they feel, so it is essential that an animal physiologist have excellent observation skills.
- Explain to students that in this lesson, they will:
- identify basic animal behaviors and hypothesize what causes them; and
- discover the responsibilities of an animal physiologist.
Activity 1: Observing a Mealworm
- After completing the Interest Approach/ Motivator, tell students that today they are going to be animal physiologists. Their first responsibility is to evaluate the environmental preferences of mealworms (the larval stage of the darkling beetle). To determine these preferences, they will experiment with different temperatures, lighting, and surface textures and observe how the mealworms respond.
- Divide students into small groups and distribute the materials. Instruct students to observe their mealworms using a hand lens and record their findings on the “My Observations” section of the Significant Surroundings Lab handout. If needed, guide observation with the following questions:
- "How many segments does your mealworm have?"
- "How many legs does it have?"
- "Does a mealworm have antennae?"
- "Can you see the mouthparts?"
- "How do we know the mealworm is the larval stage of an insect and not a true worm?"
- "How does the mealworm move?"
- In this lab, students will carry out three different experiments to test the environmental preferences of mealworms. Each half of the shoebox will offer the mealworms a different environment to choose. Students will record their findings on the Significant Surroundings Lab handout. Instruct students to complete the lab activities. Assist and clarify as necessary.
Activity 2: Making a Graphic Organizer
- Building on the discoveries made in Activity 1, students will choose a livestock animal (an animal raised in an agricultural setting to produce food, fiber, or labor) to research and create a guide for their ideal environmental conditions, which may include:
- Demonstrate how to create a three-dimensional graphic organizer to record students’ research. This educational tool helps students organize information in a kinesthetic way. Watch the step-by-step video on how to create a three-dimensional graphic organizer.
- Stack three different colored sheets of paper (8 ½" x 11") together, placing each consecutive sheet around ¾ of an inch higher than the sheet in front of it.
- Bring the top of the sheets downward and align the edges so that all of the layers or tabs are the same distance apart.
- When all of the tabs are equal distance apart, fold the papers and crease well.
- Staple the sheets of paper together along the center fold.
- Fold the graphic organizer in half to create a booklet with a front and back cover.
- Instruct students to decorate the cover of their three-dimensional graphic organizer with their name and a picture of their livestock animal. On each tab, students should write the type of environmental condition considered and the preferred condition for their specific animal. Research sources should include books or databases in the library, Internet searches (validating sources), and interviews (primary sources) if possible.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities review and summarize the following key concepts:
- An animal physiologist observes and studies animals in their natural environment.
- Animal physiologists assist farmers and ranchers in caring for their animals properly to provide for their safety and welfare.
- Farmers and ranchers are concerned with the welfare of their animals which provide meat, milk, and eggs to our food supply.
- Use online resources, such as the National Center for Education Statistics “Create a Graph” tool, to make graphs that illustrate how many mealworms prefer each type of environment.
- Set up a station for each experiment. Prepare and provide several shoeboxes at each station. Have students rotate around the room to complete each lab experiment.
- Prepare the shoeboxes for students prior to starting the lesson.
- This lesson incorporates hands-on activities. Kinesthetic learning events provide an excellent learning environment for English language learners.
- Demonstrate how students may set up their experiment prior to student investigations. ELL students will benefit from observing the procedures before they get started.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Have students research a variety of careers (e.g., construction worker, engineer, animal nutritionist, and veterinarian) that may rely on the expertise of an animal physiologist. Challenge students to devise a scenario that integrates each career with animal well-being.
Plan and build a model of an “ideal environment” for each livestock animal that the students research. Have students think critically to determine the elements that could negatively affect the environment they create.
Students research the educational background and skills required to be an animal physiologist.
Suggested Companion Resources
- An Agricultural Interview (Activity)
- Living Science Career Cards (posters or mini-posters) (Poster, Map, Infographic)
- Careers in Agriculture Videos (Multimedia)
- You're Hired! (Multimedia)
- Sprout 2 - Careers (Booklets & Readers)
- Under Your Feet: Exploring Soil Science (Booklets & Readers)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Food, Health, and Lifestyle
- Identify the careers in food production, processing, and nutrition that are essential for a healthy food supply (T3.6-8.j)
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
- Identify science careers related to both producers and consumers of agricultural products (T4.6-8.g)
Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
- Identify strategies for housing for animal welfare and the safety of animal products (e.g., meat, milk, eggs) (T2.6-8.e)
Education Content Standards
Animal Systems Career Pathway
AS.06.02Apply principles of comparative anatomy and physiology to use within various animal systems.
AS.07.01Design programs to prevent animal diseases, parasites and other disorders and ensure animal welfare.
AS.08.02Evaluate the effects of environmental conditions on animals and create plans to ensure favorable environments for animals.
Career Ready Practices
CRP.10.1Identify career opportunities within a career cluster that match personal interests, talents, goals and preferences.
MS-ETS1 Engineering Design
MS-ETS1-1Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
MS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
MS-LS2-5Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Language: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.4Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.
Writing: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.