Lesson Plan

Spotted Salamanders

Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)
NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Kindergarten
Subject:
Biology: Animals, Ecology, Science and Technology
Duration:
20 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 36
Setting:
classroom
National/State Standards:
MS Objectives: 1a, 1d, 1e
Life Science: 3a, 3e
Keywords:
salamander, metamorphosis, Amphibian, spotted salamander, adaptations, poisonous, animal, life science, science, scientist, Young Scientist

Overview

The students will learn that scientists have learned that spotted salamanders protect themselves by having bright spots. The students will learn that spotted salamanders live in our neighborhoods (see teacher fact sheet) and along the Natchez Trace Parkway. They are very pretty but they taste terrible if another animal tries to eat them. Explain to the students that scientists study the salamanders to learn all about their lives.

Objective(s)

Enduring Understanding: Animals have adaptations that help them survive. 

Essential Question: Why do these salamanders have bright spots?

The students will:

1) Correctly color a picture of a spotted salamander

2) Learn that bright spots on an animal can mean danger

3) Learn that human-made toys do not always represent reality.



Background

Spotted Salamanders have yellow spots which warn predators that they are poisonous. While not lethally toxic, their poison makes them taste very bitter to an animal that would like to eat them. Salamanders and lizards are basically different because salamanders lay eggs in water and juveniles metamorphose and lizards lay eggs on land and juveniles resemble adults.

Materials

1.) Teacher Information Sheet

2.) Spotted Salamander

3.) Photos of Salamanders

4.) Crayons

5.) Option: A loudly colored stuffed animal that is not representative of the actual coloration of the animal it represents: For example, a line green-pink polka dotted stuffed pony



Procedure

Student Task: The students will correctly color a picture of a spotted salamander. Students will look at pictures of spotted salamanders and learn that their bright spots warn other animals that they are poisonous. They may taste something like a very strong tasting lemon.

Students Instruction:

Discussion - Ask the students:

1.) Has anyone ever seen a spotted salamander? (Explain that they live in Mississippi and there are a lot that live along the Natchez Trace Parkway.)

2.) What do they look like? (Show the students pictures of spotted salamanders)

3.) What do you think about how they look?

4.) Did you know that their bright yellow spots are like a stop sign? (Explain that scientists discovered that the spots remind predators that they are not good to eat.)

5.) Have you ever tasted a lemon? (Explain that these salamanders would taste like a very strong lemon)

6.) How does tasting terrible protect an animal? (It will be spit out, and the predator will not try that food again.)

7.) Can you think of any other animals that are black and yellow? (bees) What about black and white? (skunks) Option: Comparing toy animal with actual spotted salamander.

8.) Why is this (pony) brightly colored?

• Answers will vary but should cover the fact that many people like brightly colored objects

9.) Is this the way real (ponies) are colored?

 • As necessary, the teacher will review that in nature, bright colors often mean danger.

Teacher Closure: Tell students that if they see a brightly colored stuffed animal it means "Cuddle" but in nature bright markings it often means "keep back!"

Assessment

Determine if the students chose the correct colors for the salamander. Be aware that some students may have color vision deficits.

Park Connections

Teaches the students about spotted salamanders, which are found on the Trace.

Extensions

1.) Review the spotted salamander when teaching about other animals.

2.) The teacher may introduce the students to the concept that the salamanders have trouble crossing the roads. They do not know to look both ways before they cross the street.



Additional Resources

 Chattahoochee National Recreation Area



Vocabulary

Poison, salamander, bitter