This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about grassland habitats. It is designed to complement the Grasslands topic on BrainPOP Jr.

Show pictures of different grasslands, including prairies and savannas. Ask children to describe what they see and share what they know about grasslands. Invite them to describe grasslands they’ve observed in real life or in books or movies. What kinds of animals live in grasslands? What plants grow there? What is the weather like?

After children share their ideas, explain that a grassland is a large, open area of land covered in grasses and low plants. Grasslands do not get enough rain throughout the year to support the growth of trees. Explain that grasses are some of the toughest plants on Earth and have adaptations to live in their environment. For example, their roots can grow deep underground in order to reach water during droughts or dry seasons.

Tell children that fires spread easily in grasslands—especially in hot, dry, and windy weather. Ask them to predict how fire might affect grasslands. Explain that while fires are dangerous, they do some good, too. Burning dead plants, for example, brings nutrients into the soil. Remind them that grasses have very deep roots which helps them to grow back quickly. Animals that are dependent on the grass for their survival can return to the area, and predators of the grass-eating animals can also return, bringing the grassland habitat back to life.

If possible, display a map and point out that grasslands exist everywhere except for Antarctica. Challenge students to consider why there are no grasslands in Antarctica. Then point to North America and the Great Plains. Tell students that in North America, it nevers gets extremely hot or cold, so the grasslands—called prairies—grow and change with the seasons. List some of the animals that live on a prairie and depend on the grasses for food, including prairie dogs, rabbits, and bison.  

Now draw their attention to Africa on the map. African grasslands, called savannas, cover about half the continent! Unlike prairies which change throughout the four seasons, the savanna is warm all year and has a dry season and a wet season. During the rainy season, there can be floods which would normally wash away most plants. Grasses, however, with their deep roots are able to survive droughts and floods. Brainstorm different savanna animals that graze on grasses, including zebras, gazelles, and wildebeests. Then brainstorm their predators, such as lions, cheetahs, and wild dogs. How do grasses support this habitat?

Remind children that an adaptation is a special characteristic that helps a plant or animal survive. In the savanna, a small antelope called a dik-dik, uses camouflage to hide in the tall grass from its predators. The acacia tree grows thorns that protect it from hungry animals, while the giraffe’s long tongue helps it to eat the acacia tree leaves without getting stuck in the thorns.

Help students to understand that grasslands are in trouble. Rich soil and wide open spaces make them perfect for farming, raising cattle, and building, but that means less grassland for the animals and plants that live there. Luckily, many groups are working hard to save the grasslands. Governments are passing laws to conserve habitats and scientists are investigating ways to save endangered animals. Learning about habitats, such as grasslands, is the first step to helping save ones in danger.

 

Comments