Curriculum Connections

Connecting Your Safari to the Curriculum: Science

Here's a fun activity you can do after your class has gone on Safari! Divide your students into teams and assign each team an animal. Their job: to research the animals for scientific information, fascinating statistics and fun facts. Use library books, the Internet, encyclopedias and other classroom resources. Have them make a list of ten items from the information they gather and make a chart or a report. The list can also make a good starting point for writing their own animal poems (see Writing Your Own Safari Poems).

Science Connection: Many of the poems that recount traditional African stories explain how an animal became the way it is (why zebras have stripes, how lions got their roar, etc.) (see Connecting Your Safari to the Curriculum: Traditional African Stories). Of course these stories are fiction, so take the opportunity to compare fact and fiction, myth and science. What are the scientific/survival functions of the characteristics and behaviors of the animals featured in the how/why stories?  What is the scientific explanation of how the animals got the way they are?

Science/Language Arts Connection: Note the use of the general terms 'feline,' 'canine,' and 'antelope' in the poem Duma. Science and, therefore, the English language are filled with nouns that categorize animals and adjectives that describe characteristics of groups of animals. Here are just a few: avian, bovine, equine, primate, fowl, swine, ungulate, nocturnal, diurnal, omnivore, carnivore, herbivore, insectivore, rodent, ophidian, edentate, annelid, piscine, lanate, and marsupial. Which of these do your students recognize? Working in small groups, have them research the rest, reporting their findings to the rest of the class and siting specific examples.

Note: By the way, cheetahs (Duma) are the only member of the cat family with unretractable blades. Topi and sassaby are different names for the same animal - a large speedy antelope with thick, gnarly horns.

Many of the words we typically use when referring to a specific animal are actually words that refer to a whole group of animals rather than a species or a breed. Everyday examples are dog, cat, horse, cow, antelope, sloth, armadillo, parrot, toucan, and snake. To make students more aware of the richness of their language and to work on the skill of categorizing, have students choose a commonly used animal name and research breeds or species of that kind of animal, again reporting the results to the rest of the class.

Science/Language Arts Connection II: Haiku poetry often paints a descriptive picture of a natural event, so it's a perfect way to combine language arts and science.  Although, there are only eleven words in the poem, Duma II, (see Bonus Poems) they highlight the most striking characteristics of the cheetah as it spies and races after a springbok (a small antelope): its spots and its speed. Though brief, the descriptive haiku poem draws a picture in the readers mind. Have students research an animal, pick two or three key qualities/characteristics of that animal, then write a haiku poem that draws a picture highlighting the qualities/characteristics chosen. Try the same with other natural phenomena: after researching, have students manipulate associated descriptive words into a haiku formula (in this case, a 5-7-5 syllable pattern).

Science Cross Reference: See 'Creative Writing Activity' under Connecting Your Safari to the Curriculum: Music for an activity related to the themes of predation and scavenging.



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