18 Animal Science Lessons and Experiments
Use these free STEM lessons and activities to teach about animal behavior, animal anatomy, and adaptations as you explore animal science K-12 students.
The free STEM lessons and activities below help students learn about animals and animal science, including habitats, adaptations, animal behavior, and other zoology and mammalian biology topics. For key terms to review with students, see the list of vocabulary words at the bottom of this resource. For students looking for science projects, we have included a list of independent science and science fair projects.
To make it easier to find resources to fit specific curriculum needs, the resources below have been grouped in the following categories:
Note: Science Buddies Lesson Plans contain materials to support educators leading hands-on STEM learning with students. Lesson Plans offer NGSS alignment, contain background materials to boost teacher confidence, even in areas that may be new to them, and include supplemental resources like worksheets, videos, discussion questions, and assessment materials. Activities are simplified explorations that can be used in the classroom or in informal learning environments.
Lesson Plans and Activities to Teach About Animal Science
1. Animal Habitats
In the Animal Habitats lesson, students play a game in which different parts of the classroom represent different habitats. Students will need to figure out what the right habitat is for the animal card they are given as they think about the relationship between habitat and animal survival.
2. What Animals Need
In the What Animals Need to Survive lesson, students role play adopting a pet and shopping for items the pet will need to survive. As students compare the items they needed to procure for their pets, they will observe that all animals share a set of basic needs.
3. Shoebox Habitat
In the Make a Miniature Habitat lesson, students use natural and craft materials to make shoebox habitats to simulate the real-life habitat of a chosen animal. As students look at and compare the habitats made by classmates for other animals, they observe that different animals need different resources to survive and not all habitats are suitable for all animals.
4. Are All Nests the Same?
In the Build a Bird Nest activity, students learn about the many different types of bird nests and why not all nests are in trees. As students think about the reasons for these differences, they also build their own model bird nest using natural materials.
5. A Home for Macroinvertebrates
In the Macroinvertebrate Manor lesson, students build or adapt an existing habitat for macroinvertebrates and then observe to see which organisms survive best in certain conditions and how they adapt to changes in their environment.
"Earthworms!" © 2009 Yun Huang Yong
Body Structures and Adaptations
6. Animal Mimicry
In the Candy Camouflage activity, students learn about mimicry, a type of camouflage, and do a hands-on activity with colorful candies to explore how mimicry can help protect an animal from predators.
7. Hide in Plain Sight
In the Can You Hide in Plain Sight? activity, students learn about camouflage, a type of adaptation that allows animals to blend into their surroundings and makes it more difficult for predators to see them. Students do an activity with green shredded paper and two colors of toothpicks to simulate how camouflage works.
8. Bird Feet
What kind of feet do birds have? In the Bird-Spotting Science: Predicting a Bird's Lifestyle Based on its Feet activity, students look closely at the feet of birds in their environment or using books and photos. How many different kinds of bird feet are there? What do the differences have to do with where the bird lives? What can you tell about a bird just by seeing a picture of its feet? How might these adaptations relate to the survival of a species?
9. Water Striders
In the Water Striders: Survival Adaptations lesson, students learn about water striders and observe how they appear to walk or skip along the surface of the water without sinking. What about their bodies contributes to this ability? What are the advantages and why might their bodies have adapted in this way? To explore, students build their own insects from pieces of wire and test to see which ones sink and which ones float. Be inspired! See how these students made and tested water striders of different sizes at home.
10. Invent an Insect
In the Invent an Insect lesson, students learn about insect adaptations and then invent their own new insects designed to live in a specific environment. Think like an engineer! This lesson is part of our engineering challenges for elementary school collection.
11. How Fish Float
What keeps fish from sinking? In the How Fish Sink and Float activity, students learn about a fish's "swim bladder," a special organ that fills with gas and provides natural buoyancy in the water.
12. Insulating Blubber
How do animals keep warm in extreme temperatures? In the How Do Arctic Animals Stay Warm? activity, students investigate different animals and how their "winter coats" provide insulating warmth. Animals that have adapted for survival in extreme cold may have winter protection made up of layers of fur, feathers, hair, fat (or blubber), and air. For another related experiment to explore the insulating properties of blubber, see the What Are You Blubbering About? activity.
13. Growing Chickens
How does a baby chicken breathe as it develops in an egg? In the How Does a Chick Breathe Inside Its Shell? activity, students investigate how animals that develop in eggs outside of a mother's body take in oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide during the development process. In the experiment, students soak eggs in a solution of water, dish detergent, and food coloring and then look for evidence of pores in the shells.
14. What is Coral?
In the Is Coral a Plant or Animal? lesson, students build an edible coral polyp and investigate to find out what makes a coral an animal and not a plant.
"Close-up of Coral Polyps" © 2009 Mark Yokohama
15. Build a Bird Feeder
Do all birds eat the same type of food or seed? How do their eating habits and behaviors differ? How can knowing more about the behavior and food preferences of specific bird species inform how you feed local birds? In the Build a Bird Feeder to Study Birds activity, students build their own bird feeder from craft and recycled materials. These feeders can then be used for experiments to see what kinds of birds are in the local area and what types of bird food they prefer.
Tip: For a related discussion about setting up a project to increase the number of birds who come to your backyard, see the Which should you choose? Scientific Method versus Engineering Design Process video.
16. Huddle for Warmth
Arctic animals may have special adaptations (and blubber!) to help keep them warm in extreme temperatures. But how do animals like dogs and cats stay warm? You might have seen a pile of sleeping puppies before. It's cute, but it's also scientifically a good way to stay warm! In the Snuggly Science: How Puppies Keep Warm activity, students explore how "huddling" works to keep all animals in the huddle warmer.
17. What's the Temperature, Cricket?
Count the number of cricket chirps to tell the temperature? It may sound hard to believe, but it's true! In the Have a Cricket Tell You the Temperature! activity, students put this claim to the test and see how the chirps of a cricket match up to the temperature. (There's a formula, so be sure to follow the activity directions.)
18. Bird Migration
In the Using Empirical Data in the Classroom: Raptor Migrations! lesson, students explore the relationship between seasonal bird migration and ecosystems by looking at the migration behavior of raptors.
"Osprey with Gulls" © 2014 Lee Jaffe
Animal Science Projects for Students Doing Independent Science Projects or Science Fair
Students looking to do science projects or science fair projects about animals and animal science can explore independent student projects in areas of:
The following projects give an idea of the kinds of science questions experiments students can explore with independent science projects:
- Bat Detector: Listen to the Secret Sounds of Bats
- Build a Better Moth Trap: Will Different-colored Lights Affect How Many Moths You Catch?
- Can You Predict a Bird's Lifestyle Based on Its Feet?
- Do Migratory Birds Like It Hot?
- Does Temperature Affect the Rate of Butterfly Development?
- Dog Scents: The Super Nose of Man's Best Friend
- Dog Toys: What Makes One a Favorite or a Flop to Fido?
- Eggs and Hen's Diet: Can You Get Bigger Eggs for Peanuts?
- How Much Do Different Pet Species Eat Compared to Each Other?
- How to Design a Great Cat Toy
- Paw Preference in Pets
- Smarter Than Your Average Slime: Maze-solving by an Amoeboid Organism
- Squirmy Wormy: Which Soil Type Do Earthworms Like Best?
- Tricks for Treats: How Long Does It Take to Train Your Pet?
- Understanding Wolf Behavior from GPS Tracking Data
- Watch Out! That Wild Animal Might Be Rabid!
- What is the Most Effective Treatment for Whitefly Infestations on Plants?
- What Seeds Do Birds Prefer to Eat?
- Why Do Birds Fly in a V-formation?
- With a Little Bread as Bait, Can You Make a Bird Migrate?
Teaching About Animals in K-12
Note: For additional educator resources to teach about habitats, biodiversity, environmental science, and Earth Day, see Earth Day Science Activities and Teach About Biodiversity with Free STEM Lessons & Activities.
The following word bank contains words that may be covered when teaching about biodiversity using the lessons and activities in this resource.
- Animal classification
- Basic needs
- Cold-blooded animals
- Endemic species
- Food chain
- Food web
- Mammalian biology
- Warm-blooded animals
Collections like this help educators find themed activities in a specific subject area or discover activities and lessons that meet a curriculum need. We hope these collections make it convenient for teachers to browse related lessons and activities. For other collections, see the Teaching Science Units and Thematic Collections lists. We encourage you to browse the complete STEM Activities for Kids and Lesson Plans areas, too. Filters are available to help you narrow your search.
Note: Arctic fox image, Wikimedia, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
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