Lesson Plan

Invent an Animal

A watercolor painting of wildlife

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Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Eighth Grade
Biology: Animals
1 hour
Group Size:
Up to 36 (6-12 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
WY Grade 4 Science 1.5, 1.6, 1.9, 2.2, 2.6, 5.4
WY Grade 4 Art 1.3
WY Grade 8 Science 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 2.2, 2.6, 5.2\
WY Grade 8 Art 1.3
Next Generation Science Standards: 3-LS4-2., 3-LS4-3., 3-LS3-2.
habitat, adaptations, ecosystem, biology


Students work collaboratively to create fictitious animals in order to understand adaptations that help wildlife survive among various habitats throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.


  • Identify specific adaptations that aid animals in survival.

  • Define adaptation, ecosystem, community, habitat, ecological niche, species, generalist, and specialist.

  • Understand the special environment of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and its diverse habitats. 


The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the last diverse, relatively intact, ecosystems in the world! All organisms that live in varied habitats have physical, biological, and behavioral adaptations that help them to survive in their environment. Found within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are habitats as different as hydrothermal pools and alpine meadows above tree line.


Habitat cards (five total), sketch paper (several pieces for each group, large enough for the class to see the invented animal during presentations), notebooks, colored pencils.



During the introduction to new vocabulary and concepts, the teacher may check for understanding through questioning and monitoring of student progress in recording definitions. While the small groups are “inventing” their animals, the teacher can circulate through the groups monitoring for participation from all group members as well as prompting each group to explain how their chosen adaptations help their animal survive in its given habitat. Guide groups as necessary toward fitting adaptations to habitats. During each group’s presentation of their animal, the teacher should ask questions of the group to assess the synthesis of adaptations, survival, and habitat.

Park Connections

This lesson utilizes habitat types found in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (such as hydrothermal areas) and many of the adaptations the groups come up with will likely be found in various Yellowstone species. Many of the habitats used can be found in a wide variety of ecosystems throughout the world.


The teacher may decide to assign several adaptations to each group to force them to use adaptations that have been previously examined in class rather than letting groups come up with adaptations on their own. Any habitats can be used for this activity.

Additional Resources

The annually published Yellowstone Resources and Issues Handbook provides a wide variety of additional information on Yellowstone’s natural as well as cultural resources. It can be found at https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/resourceandissues.htm


habitat, adaptation, ecosystem, abiotic factor, community, niche, species

Last updated: February 24, 2015