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What Animals Need to Survive

17 reviews


Grade Range
Group Size
2-3 students
Active Time
60 minutes
Total Time
60 minutes
Area of Science
Mammalian Biology
Key Concepts
Animals' basic needs
Svenja Lohner, PhD, Science Buddies
Photos of food, water, toys and shelter surround a photo of a dog


At some point, many children wish for a pet animal to play with and care for. But what does it take to keep an animal alive and healthy? In this engaging lesson plan, children will act out adopting a pet and shopping for items based on its needs. As they bring their items together, they will notice that every animal needs food, water, shelter, and air to survive.

Learning Objectives

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Science & Engineering Practices Analyzing and Interpreting Data. Use observations (firsthand or from media) to describe patterns and/or relationships in the natural and designed world(s) in order to answer scientific questions and solve problems.

Engaging in Argument from Evidence. Listen actively to arguments to indicate agreement or disagreement based on evidence, and/or to retell the main points of the argument.

Construct an argument with evidence to support a claim.
Disciplinary Core Ideas LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms. All animals need food in order to live and grow. They obtain their food from plants or from other animals. Plants need water and light to live and grow.
Crosscutting Concepts Patterns. Patterns in the natural and human designed world can be observed and used as evidence.


Photos of animals basic needs, photos of various animals, tape and index cards

Background Information for Teachers

This section contains a quick review for teachers of the science and concepts covered in this lesson.

Every pet owner should know that certain responsibilities come with owning an animal, such as caring for the pet and keeping it alive, happy, and healthy. There are many things you can do to keep a pet happy, but when it comes down to the essentials, there are actually only a handful of things that an animal (including humans, which are part of the animal kingdom), be it in captivity or in the wild, really needs to survive. These basic needs are food to eat, water to drink, shelter for protection, and air to breathe (Figure 1).

Four photos of various animals drinking water, eating food, taking shelter and breathing
Figure 1. Animals' four basic needs for survival are water, shelter, air (oxygen), and food.

Food is the energy source for every living organism. All animals need to eat regularly to fuel their bodies. Different types of animals eat different types of food. Some animals (carnivores) hunt and eat other animals. Some animals (herbivores) only eat plants like leaves, fruits, or nuts. Other animals (omnivores) eat both meat and plants. Each animal live where they can find the food they need to survive.

Water, or other liquids such as a mother's milk, are of major importance to all living things. Human bodies consist of up to 60% of water. In other organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. Animals constantly lose water when sweating or exhaling. In order to replenish their water supplies, most animals have to drink on a regular basis. Some animals that live in the desert where water is scarce get most of their water from the food they eat.

Air, or more specifically, the oxygen in the air, is also essential for all animals. The oxygen is important to many processes that happen inside animals' bodies. For example, oxygen is needed to process the food we eat and to convert it into energy that our bodies can use to move and grow. Even animals that live in the ocean and do not have lungs (like fish) still need oxygen, which is why they have gills to help them absorb oxygen from the water. Recently, scientist have discovered one animal species deep down at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, called loricifera, that seems to be able to survive without oxygen. This is, however, a rare exception in the animal kingdom.

Shelter, or a protected place to live, is crucial for animals. Each animal species can only thrive in a certain temperature range. Being exposed to extreme weather conditions such as heat, wind, or rain can become deadly if there is no place to take shelter. Their shelter will help them keep in the temperature range they can tolerate. In addition, a shelter provides a place where wild animals can raise their young and keep them protected from dangers such as predators. The type of shelter, or home, an animal builds or chooses for themselves can vary. Some animals build underground borrows, some build a nest in a tree, and others prefer to live in a cave.

The basic needs for pets or other animals in captivity are the same as those for animals in the wild. No matter where they live, an animal that lacks one of these four components will not be able to survive.

In this lesson plan, your class will discover that while there are many things that can help make an animal happy, only some of them are necessary for their survival. Students will pretend to adopt an animal and shop items for their pet. By comparing the needs for different types of animals, they will be able to conclude that only some of the items are essential to all animals.

Prep Work (15 minutes)

Engage (15 minutes)

Explore (20 minutes)

Reflect (25 minutes)

Make Career Connections

Lesson Plan Variations

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