Habitat Breakdown


Author: Nicole Czech, Christine Calahan, Martina Richards, Marian Kirk, Stephanie Miller, and Kristine Russell

Organization: Texas A&M University

Topic: Organisms and their habitats

Grade Level: 4th

Time Frame: 20-30 minutes


Purpose: At the end of this activity the student will have a new understanding of how insects/organisms are impacted by factors that are essential to an organism's survival in a particular habitat. The students will understand how lacking just one element of a habitat (food, water, shelter, and space) can affect an organism's chance for survival.

Materials: Strips of colored paper- representing the different elements of a habitat

Motivate (Engage): The teacher will begin the class by asking students what would happen to them if they did not have enough water to drink? What would happen if they did not have a space in which to live? Would these factors make life easy or hard? What would you have to do to survive in these conditions? The students will then learn that a habitat consists of factors such as food, water, space, and shelter.


  • The students will then be invited to partake in a habitat game in which they are to imagine themselves as an insect.
  • In order to survive, the insect must collect food, find water, find a place to stay for shelter, and an insect must find a place to live where there is space.
  • The class will simulate the collection process by having strips of various colors of paper, (with each color representing an element of habitat) distributed around the room.
  • The color strips will be coded as follows
    • Red = shelter
    • Green = food
    • Blue = water
    • Brown = space
  • In order to survive the activity, each student must collect 1 red paper, 3 green slips of paper, 2 blue strips of paper, and 1 brown strip of paper within 30 seconds of the instructor telling the students to go on their survival trek.
  • At different intervals, the teacher can simulate different conditions such as season, weather, and climate changes.
  • As students collect the colored strips, the teacher will remind them that those insects who do not collect the needed amount of food, shelter, water, and space: can become sick and/or die.
  • This activity can take as long as the teacher feels necessary and as long as the children are interested and learning.

Safety Tips:

  • If this game is played indoors, it should be done in an area where students can maneuver around furniture safely.
  • Students should also be reminded that if they are in a classroom, that only walking is permitted.
  • The teacher needs to be weary in asking questions such as "What would happen if you did not have food? What would happen if you did not have a home?" In some cases students in the classroom may have experienced these events.

Concept Discovery: After the class has played several rounds of the game, the class will come together for discussion. What have the students learned? Did any of the children not meet the needs for survival? If the students were real insects and they did not meet their needs, what would happen? How is habitat important? What is happening to insects that are living in a forest that is being torn down? Do they die from loss of habitat, or do they survive and adapt to their changing environment?

Going Further (Extensions): The students can analyze their own habitat based on what they have learned in the activity. Students can go home after the activity and think about what their own habitat is? How are the student's needs within their own habitat met? What happens if a need is not met? Students can then return to class prepared to share what they have learned about their own survival.

Closure: This activity will close with having the children think about different types of insects. Do different insects have different needs? Are some insect's needs harder to meet than other insect's needs? Through this activity the students have learned the importance of habitat, and how if one element of habitat were missing, an organism would need to struggle in order to survive.

Assessment: The teacher will assess the students through informal assessment. As the rounds of the game occur the teacher can ask "What if?" questions causing students to think about how an insect will respond to its habitat when something happens.



Students can make graphs that show the number of insects that survive and the number of insects that die.


Students may write a story about a particular habitat and how its inhabitants are affected by varying circumstances.


Students can look at different historical events that have altered habitats permanently.

Article Type: 
Appropriate for Level: