Mammals Background Information for Teachers, Parents, and Caregivers
This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about mammals. Designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Mammals, you will find ideas for developing related understandings and ways to use other BrainPOP Jr. resources to scaffold and extend student learning.
Together with children, brainstorm different animals they know and write them on chart paper or whiteboard. Ask how the animals are alike and different. Then ask how scientists group different animals. You may want to watch the BrainPOP Jr. movie Classifying Animals for review. Explain that mammals are vertebrates, which means they have a spine, or backbone. They also have hair or fur, breathe air through lungs, and feed milk to their offspring. Most give birth to live young that require care from the parent. Share some examples of mammals such as cats, zebras, humans, and more. Children may not realize that some ocean animals, such as whales and dolphins, are mammals, too. Point out that they come up to the surface to breathe air through their lungs and that they are born with tiny hairs that eventually fall out.
How are mammals different from each other? Lead a discussion with children. Help them understand that mammals live in a range of habitats. You may want to explore the movies in the BrainPOP Jr. habitats unit, such as Ocean Habitats, Deserts, Rainforests, and Arctic Habitats. Discuss how mammals’ unique adaptations help them survive in their habitats. For example, explain how the camel’s humps store body fat that can be turned into water—an important adaptation to the hot desert where it lives. Discuss how how the anteater’s long, sticky tongue allows it to grab insects to eat and how chimpanzees have long, muscular arms that help it grab and swing from tree branches. Prompt children to consider the purposes of other adaptations such as a horse’s hooves or an antelope’s horns.
Point out that camouflage, or the ability to blend in with surroundings, is also an adaptation that helps animals survive in their habitats. Remind them that camouflage allows animals to hide from predators and sneak up on prey without being noticed. To review this concept, you may want to explore the BrainPOP Jr. Camouflage movie. Discuss the appearance of different mammals such as leopards, giant pandas, and deer and how their colorings help them survive in their habitats.
Explain to children that when an animal or plant is endangered, it means there are only a few left of its species. You may want to screen the Extinct and Endangered Species movie for further exploration. Discuss different reasons why species become endangered. One major cause is habitat destruction. People clear areas to make space for farmland or homes or to gather natural resources, like timber and minerals. When this happens, animals lose their homes, making it challenging for them to survive. Hunting also contributes to endangerment and even extinction. Animals are often killed for valuable parts, such as as elephants’ tusks and snow leopards’ fur. Fortunately, people are working together to save habitats and protect animals and plants.
Remind children that we share Earth with a wide array of living organisms, many of which are on the brink of extinction for reasons we can control. Encourage them to be global citizens by getting involved in ways to protect animals and our Earth. Actions may be as simple as recycling to conserve our natural resources, joining an organization that protects endangered organisms, or writing letters to local politicians.