Lesson Plan

Enviro Musical Chairs

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Biology: Animals, Biology: Plants, Botany, Conservation, Ecology, Environment, Marine Biology, Wildlife Biology
45 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 24 (4-8 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
Standard 6: Students assess the interrelated cycles and forces that shape Earth’s surface, including human interaction with Earth. (ASDOE Elementary Science Standards: Grade 6-8, pp. 40- 73)


There's a certain mystique about the word “biodiversity” that seems to be associated with images of steamy jungles or wondrous new medicines, but the word more specifically refers to the number of species or 'species richness' of an area. One reason why tropical areas are so fascinating is that they contain the highest numbers of plant and animal species found anywhere on earth.American Samoa sits squarely in the tropics, so we should have a high biological diversity here, but we do and we don't


Students will be able to:

1. Define the vocabulary terms natural resources and conservation.

2. Identify several living things and explain the role of each in American Samoa's ecosystems.

3. Describe natural resources and conservation and how our actions can threaten the health of our ecosystems.
4. Learn about the role of the National Park of American Samoa in conserving our natural resources.


To start at the beginning, when American Samoa emerged as fiery volcanoes from the depths of the sea, they were devoid of plants or animals. As time passed and the terrain became more hospitable, life for organisms became possible, but the plants and animals still had to cross vast ocean distances to get here from someplace else.

American Samoa is really quite isolated in the Pacific Ocean, far from potential sources of plants and animals. To reach its shores, organisms would either have to blow in on the wind, drift for hundreds or thousands of miles on some piece of floating debris, or be carried in by another organism like plant seeds in a bird's stomach. The species that were successful probably got here by “island hopping” across the Pacific, spreading from island to island over the course of many thousands or millions of years.

The difficulty in getting here is best illustrated by the sparse representation of native mammal species. Over the past 1.5 million years that Tutuila Island (main island of American Samoa) has existed, only 3 mammal species (all bats) got here and established viable populations. Our native species list also includes about 478 flowering plants and ferns, 18 resident or migratory land and water birds, 20 resident seabirds, 3 skinks, 1 gecko, 2 sea turtles, and occasional other visitors (this list does not include any species presumably introduced by early Polynesians or all the recently introduced non-native species like rats, dogs, pigs, toads, myna birds, and many weeds).

There's a second reason for the low diversity on land -- the small size of the islands. In general, the smaller the island, the fewer the species on it. For example, tiny Rose Atoll (0.4 sq. mi) supports only 5 native plant species, 21 birds (virtually all seabirds), 2 geckos, and 2 sea turtles. So, although American Samoa technically has “tropical rainforests” due to the high level of rainfall (200- 300 inches per year in some mountainous areas), it lacks the high species richness found in the jungle rainforests of Indonesia, Africa or South America that are filled with hooting monkeys, poison dart frogs, pythons, and flesh-eating piranhas.

On the other hand, because of its isolation, some terrestrial species in Samoa have evolved over many thousands of years to such an extent that they have become distinctly different species found nowhere else but here. For example, 30% of plant species and the Samoan starling (fuia) occur only in the Samoan archipelago (which includes the Independent State of Samoa); and the Samoan fruit bat occurs only in the Samoan and Fijian islands. So, American Samoa’s rainforests may lack diversity, but they contain some species found nowhere else on earth.

Turning to the marine environment, it is the opposite situation. There is an incredibly diverse ecosystem just beneath the waves. Coral reefs are among the most species-rich ecosystems in the world. There are, for example, 961 near shore fish species which is an amazingly high number compared to many other coastal areas. To get a sense of this species-rich environment, if you were to dive on our reefs once a week, you could in theory see a new fish species on every dive for 18 years.

Although coral reefs are limited to shallow waters, usually around the fringes of islands, most coral reef species have eggs and larvae that can survive for weeks or months in the open ocean and get dispersed by ocean currents to new locations. As a result of this genetic exchange of marine organisms between islands, there are probably few marine species that are unique to the Samoan islands.


1. Chairs
2. Flash cards with description
3. Hole puncher

4. String
5. Marker

6. Radio

Handouts & Worksheets
1. Word Search
2. Living things Role Cards



Introduce Inquiry Questions?

What are natural resources? How do we interact in this bio-diverse ecosystem?



Ask: Have you ever heard the term natural resources? If yes, what and how did you hear about it? If not, what do you think it means? Write the term on the board and explain how to break the word into parts to understand its meaning. Explain that natural comes from the root word "nature" and refers to wide array of resources like trees, animals, landscape, etc. Tell students that ecosystems with natural resources also show a high level of importance between the living things that live there.

Ask: Have you ever heard the term conservation? If yes, what and how did you hear about it? If not, what do you think it means? Write the term on the board and explain how to break the word into parts to understand its meaning, as you did with natural resources. Explain that conservation means to protect something important from being destroyed or overused.” To illustrate the concept of conservation, show students the images of Terrestrial crew eradicating invasive trees to conserve the native rainforest. If students have difficulty with the concept, give the example of their favorite toy and how they would clean and protect it from being damaged by other kids. Because the toy is of great personal value to them, the same is true with conserving our very own natural resources that are of great economic, cultural, and social importance to all of us who call planet Earth-Home.

Enviro Musical Chairs

Have students arrange their seats in a circle.
1.) Introduce the activity to the students. Write “Natural Resources” on the board. Ask for a volunteer to read what is written, and tell students what they are going to be learning regarding the natural resources found all around them. Make sure to go through all the steps to ensure students understand what is expected of them.
2.) Introduce the natural resources to be mentioned in the game. One character flash card per student.  i.e. Bats, trees, corals, etc.
3.) The name of each resource should appear in the front of the flashcard, and in the back it should provide a brief description of how and why that resource is important to people. Before the game, randomly select a student who will hold the “People” flashcard.

4.) Place students in a circle along with the chairs. Play the music and have students walk around in a circle. The student with the “People” flashcard will stand in the middle of the circle while all other students with resource cards dance around this individual. Slowly eliminate students as you keep removing more and more chairs from the game.
5.) Before the student leaves, all the students in the circle must pause while he or she reads the brief description of his/her natural resource and what that resource means to people. A brief discussion will follow so that all the students can understand what the resource is, why it is important, and how it is being destroyed/overused. The flashcards should also indicate what challenges the characters face in real life in order to survive.

6.) Students will understand the importance of that resource to people until no character is left standing except the student with the “People” flashcard.

7.) Gather kids back as a group and review what they have learned about the roles of different characters they each played in the game. Make sure that students understand the inter-connectivity between people and their environment. Close the program.

Have a class discussion about how we may negatively affect our ecosystems in terms of natural resources and conservation. Ask the following questions:

1. In the activity, what were three ways humans harmed our natural resources? (i.e. global warming, pollution, and overfishing)

2. What other ways could we threaten the survival of living things that live here? (Responses will vary but may include different types of pollution such as trash, plastic, chemicals, or sediment; damage caused by drilling for oil; rising human population.)


Conclusion with Inquiry Question

What are natural resources and how do we interact in this bio-diverse ecosystem?


Stewardship Message

Encourage your family and friends to conserve, preserve, and protect our natural resources by reporting to the National Park of American Samoa any instances of people hunting fruit bats, using dynamite on coral reefs, or destroying historic artifacts in the national park.