- discover how humankind and habitats are linked, as well as some thought-provoking perspectives on habitat from wildlife's point of view;
- grapple with the challenge of coexisting with wildlife, so that all living things can thrive;
- research and analyse the health of an ecological area, pinpoint problems, and envision solutions;
- create an action strategy, then enlist the support of parents, neighbours, and local businesses; and
- follow up and maintain projects that will contribute to a healthier planet and also instill a lasting sense of responsible stewardship.
Through hands-on activities, kids will learn the importance of wildlife to themselves, their communities, provinces or territories, country and planet. They will become aware of areas near and far that have been disrupted without a thought for the creatures that live in them. Through both large- and small-scale projects, students can offer wildlife and habitat a huge helping hand
student resource sheets; maps of your area; materials for planting and building, including shovels, rakes, plants, seeds, hammers, lumber, screws, gloves, and garbage bags; specific materials are covered in individual projects
Let's Hear it for Habitat
Some creatures, like salmon, demand two very different habitats to complete their life cycles. They hatch in freshwater streams, then migrate to the salty sea. Eventually they return to their birth place to lay eggs and to die. The swift fox, however, needs only wide open prairie and would perish in a boreal forest.
- Habitat is complex and can't be defined within a clear border.
- There can be many habitats within an ecosystem. An ecosystem is defined by its biotic (living) elements, such as animals and plants, and abiotic (non-living) elements, such as rocks, air, and water, plus the way in which all those elements interact.
- All habitats and ecosystems are interdependent, often in ways we don't fully understand.
- The biggest problem facing wildlife today is habitat loss and disruption. Much of with is caused by urban development.
- Canada is a mosaic of vastly different habitats. Many are considered irreplaceable because they are crucial to the survival of a host of species: wetlands, arctic tundra, and old-growth forests are just a few of them.
- A variety of areas in Canada are aimed at protecting wild creatures and ecosystem diversity. They include national wildlife areas, national parks, world heritage sites, biosphere reserves, Ramsar sites, marine protected areas, and more.
- Habitat "hot spots" are areas in serious trouble. Without ongoing protection and monitoring of such places as the Garry Oak meadows of British Columbia or Manitoba's tall-grass prairie, these wildlife-rich habitats could easily vanish.
- Assign the resource sheet entitled "Discover Your Place in Your Habitat" as homework or as a classroom reading activity.
- Based on the reading assignment, discuss the importance of habitats to all living things and how humans help or harm these natural homes. Discuss how ecosystems and habitats fit together. By drawing a map, students can locate themselves in their own habitats.
- Refer to the student resource sheet entitled "Unique Habitats Need Your Help" for details on some of Canada's crucial habitats, wildlife residents, and how they are protected.
- Once students are familiar with the basics, they will be ready to diagnose their habitat according to the third resource sheet, "Assess Your Habitat’s Health".
- Using projects from these resources or by brainstorming project ideas of their own, students can then dig in and enhance habitat in their schoolyards or communities.
- Cooperate with communities. Get as many volunteers involved with habitat projects as possible. A collaborative network will ensure success and also discourage vandalism.
- Always obtain permission first from your school principal and, if applicable, from your municipality or landowners. Keep these key participants involved and advised throughout. Check with your area bylaws inspector or conservation authority in case there are regulations you must follow.
To expand your unit on habitat, try the following exercises:
- Research a habitat. List what species depend on a natural area to survive. Are any of them "specialized" (that is, can they survive only in that particular habitat)? Are development, pollutants, succession, or other factors threatening the habitat’s health? Report your findings.
- Pick a perspective. Have students take the part of a salamander, bear, oak tree, or other living thing. Discuss habitat from the animal's or plant’s point of view. It would be interesting to pick unpopular species such as cockroaches, slugs, and mosquitoes.
Determine whether students have grasped important learning objectives through the following exercises:
- Pick species' names from a hat and have youngsters research the habitat that would suit each plant's or animal's needs.
- Have youngsters play the roles of several species in an ecosystem. They could argue their cases to a polluter, land developer, farmer, or poacher.
- Choose a habitat hot spot. Students discuss the repercussions if a particular vulnerable area were wiped out by development. Who or what would be affected, and why?
- Remind youngsters that there are no quick fixes to improve wildlife habitat. Some of the most productive projects take years to unfold.
- Don't be discouraged. If projects don’t work out, there's a great opportunity to discover what went wrong. The process of creating habitat is not clear-cut. It is a complex exchange between your efforts and how plants and animals respond.
- Develop a realistic project plan. Include diagrams, estimated costs, and why the project is a good idea.
- Collaborate with landowners first if you have your eye on private land as the perfect project spot. Be respectful and clear about your plans when asking for permission. Provide a written outline as well.
- Always use plants, trees, and shrubs native to your area.
- Post weatherproof signs at project sites to avoid misunderstandings about your efforts.
- Involve other grades, schools, experts, and community volunteers to give your project a strong foundation.
- Reassure students that they are practising good stewardship, since their habitat will benefit future generations. Otherwise, they may lose touch with long-term projects when they move on to higher grades.
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