Habitat for Me, A Habitat for Elk, A (PEEC)
After creating their own habitat, participants will learn key elements of a healthy habitat for elk, and then play a game to reinforce the importance of food, water, shelter and space in an elk habitat.
K - 4
Ponca Elk Education Center, Ponca, AR
Education Program Coordinator, 870-861-2432
30 - 45 minutes
Suggested Number of Participants:
10 - 25
- Create a habitat.
- Learn the four elements of a habitat.
- Transfer knowledge of their own habitat to the habitat needs of an elk.
- Participate in a game to learn the importance of every element in the elks’ habitat
*See glossary for definations
Paper and pencils
Stickers in four colors: red, blue, green and yellow (class set)
Red cards with the word “space” (class set)
Blue cards with the word “water” (class set)
Green cards with the word “food” (class set)
Yellow cards with the word “shelter” (class set)
A habitat is an area that all animals need (including humans) which provides food, water, shelter and space.
- Ask participants to draw a picture of their home. Model this by drawing a picture of a house on a dry erase board.
- After the picture is drawn, give each of them a green sticker to put on the area where they get food. Write “food” on the dry erase board and ask them to write the word by the sticker.
- Give each participant a blue sticker to place on the area where they get water. Write “water” on the dry erase board and ask them to write the word by the blue sticker.
- Continue this process with the red sticker to place on their paper where they have a place they like to be (bedroom, living room, etc.). Have them write “space” beside this sticker.
- Repeat with the yellow sticker, asking them to place it anywhere on the house they feel safe. Have them write “shelter” beside the yellow sticker. Be sure to model this entire process on the dry erase board, emphasizing each word to reinforce the new vocabulary.
- Explain that the house they drew is their habitat. A habitat is an area that provides food, water, shelter and space.
- Ask them what would happen if one of those things were gone from their home. How would they feel? For example, what if the roof were gone? Would they be able to live there anymore? Explain that they have lost their shelter, their habitat is no longer healthy and cannot support their family.
- Show the participants a picture of an elk calf. What would its habitat look like? What things would they need to survive? Briefly discuss the following:
- Food – Elk will eat tree bark, leaves and twigs, grass, lichen, broad-leaved plants and shrubs. Calves need mother’s milk (she needs plenty of nourishment to provide healthy milk) at first and then tender grass when they get a little older.
- Water – Elk use water for drinking, to cool off in the hot summer and to shed pesky biting insects.
- Shelter – Elk need shelter, such as a thick stand of trees to help them stay out of the cold wind in winter and to keep them shaded and cool in the summer. They also use dense vegetation as cover, and very young calves are hidden there while their mother (a cow) grazes.
- Space – Elk are very large animals and need a great deal of food in order to survive. For this reason, they need a large area to roam and forage for food. In spring the elk herd will gather the calves in one place to be “baby sat” by one cow while the other cows graze. This space is very important for the herd. It is sometimes difficult to find enough space because of human interference such as highways and a growing number of homes.
- Take the participants to a large, open area where boundaries have been set with cones, paper plates, etc.
- Within these boundaries, quickly scatter the colored cards. Tell the participants they are going to play a game where they pretend to be an elk herd. They can pretend to be a cow, a calf or a bull. When they have decided what they want to be, tell them the area that is sectioned off is their habitat. And in that section are the things they need for a healthy habitat: food, water, shelter and space.
- Ask them to repeat the four elements of a healthy habitat. As they say each one, show them a card with that word printed on it. Have them find a spot in the habitat and stand there.
- Explain the rules of the game:
- When the instructor says, “go,” all of the “elk” must begin searching for food, water, shelter and space.
- The participants have 30 seconds to pick up one of each of the cards labeled food, water, shelter and space.
- When the instructor says, “freeze,” the “elk” must freeze.
- If an “elk” gathered all four cards, he/she is healthy and can continue to play.
- If an “elk” was not able to get all four, he/she is not healthy and must sit out the next round of play.
- No “elk” is allowed to push another out of the way to get a card. It is important to be safe when playing.
- Before the first round, make sure there are enough cards for all the participants to continue. Prior to the second round of play, tell them that a mall has been built, and some of the trees that provided shelter were cleared for the parking lot. Remove some of the “shelter” cards and then play another round. This time, some participants will be eliminated.
- Continue play, making scenarios where one or more of the elements become scarce (drought, over grazing, loss of space to subdivisions, etc.) Play enough rounds so the participants can recognize what is happening to the herd when the habitat is changed, but not until they become bored with the game. It will vary, depending on age and/or interest level.
- How did you feel when there was not enough for the entire herd?
- Do you think animals become worried or angry when there is not enough for the entire herd?
- What would happen if more habitats were created?
- What can humans do to help elk herds have healthy habitats?
- What are the four elements of a habitat?
Habitat – an arrangement of food, water, shelter or cover, and space suitable to animals’ needs
Herd – a large number of wild animals of the same kind that live, feed and travel as a group