Ask students to brainstorm, either in small groups or as a whole class, a list of animals that they think of as large animals. Direct students to discuss what size they consider an animal must be in order to be thought of as a giant. Students may select, individually or in groups, to research one of the animals from the student–generated list.
Ask students to select an animal and to create a trivia book or game about it. Trivia facts might include life span, size, different species, animal’s behavior, habitat, what the animal looks like, eating habits, locomotion, communication, how it protects itself from enemies, animal’s intelligence, its life as an infant, its life cycle.
Using the book Dinosaur for a Day by Jim Murphy (ISBN 0–590–42866–7) as a model, instruct students to select a large animal and to write what a typical day would be like for the selected animal.
The book Little Giants by Seymour Simon (ISBN 0–688–01727–4) is an excellent springboard for discussion and research on animals that are the largest of what are considered small animals.
Divide the class into teams. Ask each team to investigate the size (including height and weight) of several large animals as well as some dinosaurs. Send them out to the blacktop or field to create a life–size rendering of their chosen animal.
What’s a “duck?” A “duck” is a building designed to look like either an animal or an inanimate object. Direct students to research the history of “ducks” and then design one of their own in miniature using construction paper. (“Lucy the Elephant” in New Jersey is one of the better known “ducks.”)
Why are large animals important? What role do they play in the environment? What would happen if these animals no longer existed? These questions may lead into an interesting discussion and possible debate topic.
Direct students to cut pictures from magazines and/or newspaper that show “giant” things. Ask students to explain why they consider the pictures they choose as “giant” things. Students may wish to place the pictures in a “Land of the Giants” book.
Share several nonfiction books that focus on one particular animal. Develop a list of things that students notice that most of these books contain. Discuss the positive and negative aspects of each tradebook. Direct students to work in groups to create their own tradebooks about particular large animals. These books could be donated to students in a primary classroom after each group shares its book aloud with the class.
Ask students to research the ancestors of one of the large animals. They might be interested to know that the first elephant was about two feet high and did not have a trunk. Many of the animals being discussed on Science Safari have interesting ancestors.
Direct students to research an animal’s needs. Ask students to design a zoo habitat for that animal based on their research. How much space is needed for one giraffe? Two giraffes? What would a zoo habitat look like and need to have in order to provide for this animal’s needs? You may wish to ask students to visit a local zoo and then to discuss how the zoo designer created the habitats for each animal.
Written by Louisa Sheldon NOAHS Center, National Zoological Park ; Alexandra Sangmeister NOAHS Center, National Zoological Park; Bill Buick NOAHS Center, National Zoological Park; Donald Peterson Fairfax County Public Schools