Students will discuss the concept of succession and describe beaver pond succession as one example of the process of change in natural environments. They will apply an understanding of the concept of succession by drawing a mural showing stages of beaver pond succession.
Grades: 4 – 6
Time: 1 – 2 hours
Subjects: Life science, visual arts
Succession is a term used to describe the ever changing environment and the gradual process by which one habitat is replaced by another. Many habitats that appear to be stable are changing before us, perhaps at a slow rate in human eyes, but evolving rather quickly according to earth's clock. Beavers make changes in the environment when they cut trees and build dams. Refer students to the Beaver Natural History Narrative for a synopsis of beaver caused succession from forest to pond, to meadow, and back to forest.
- Long piece of drawing paper for mural construction paper for cut-outs crayons, paint scissors glue.
- Beaver Natural History Narrative
- Discuss with the students the idea of succession: the orderly, gradual and continual replacement of one community of plants and animals with another. Ask students to describe different plant and/or animal communities in your area, making sure the idea of community is clear before you proceed.
- Explain to the students that they will be constructing a mural showing the gradual changes that take place when a beaver chooses a spot to build his dam.
- Conduct an informative discussion on beavers. Why do beavers construct dams? How do beavers build their dams? What kind of a habitat do they require?
- Write the word HABITAT on the chalkboard. Ask the students to name the habitat the beaver requires (encourage students to think of Glacier and a forest habitat as opposed to a woodland habitat) and write FOREST under the HABITAT heading. Ask students what types of plants and animals live in a forest and write appropriate student responses on chalkboard under FOREST.
- Continue beaver discussion with more questions. What is a result of the beaver’s dam? What happens to the flooded trees? What new habitat is created as a result of the dam? Write the word POND under the HABITAT heading and ask the students what types of plants and animals are attracted to a pond habitat, listing appropriate responses on the board.
- How long do the beavers remain at their dam sight? Why do they move on? What happens to the dam after the beavers leave? Ask the students what kind of habitat replaces the pond as a result of the beaver’s departure. Write the word MEADOW under the HABITAT heading and ask the students what types of plants and animals are attracted to a meadow habitat, listing responses on the board.
- Discuss the process by which the meadow eventually returns to its original state as a forest.
- Divide the class into three groups and assign each group one of the three habitats listed on the board, placing extra students in the forest group. Mark the mural paper into four segments. The first and fourth segment will be assigned to the forest group, the second segment to the pond group, and the third segment to the meadow group. You may wish to begin by having the whole class work together to construct a stream running along the course of the paper, to be later modified by the pond and meadow groups.
- Instruct the students to create their assigned habitat by drawing, painting, cut-outs, etc. They may need to work with other groups to coordinate the changing environment to portray a smooth transition as the environment changes.
- When the mural is completed (and this may take several class periods), ask each group to sign their segment, and then present and explain their segment to the rest of the class. Begin and end with the forest group.
Variations and Extensions:
After students have been divided into groups, have each group research their habitat and the plant and animal life found there, reporting back to the class and making additions and/or corrections to the list on the chalkboard.
Ask the students to summarize what they have learned, including how succession is one example of the ongoing process of change in natural environments. Ask the class for a consensus on the number of years the students believe the process of beaver succession from forest to pond, to meadow, and back to forest, will take. What possible differences would there be in beaver pond succession inside and outside the International Peace Park? (Think about possible human influences.)