Lessons

Exotic Pets and Impacts on the Food Chain

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Wang Ke, 30, in his breeding farm with a red striped gargoyle gecko (Rhacodactylus auriculatus), a pinstripe crested gecko, and a mossy New Caledonian gecko (Mniarogekko chahoua). These geckos are only found in the forests of New Caledonia in the South Pacific with many listed as vulnerable due to pressures from human activities including logging, wildfires and forest clearance, and wildlife trafficking. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2017.

Wang Ke, 30, in his breeding farm with a red striped gargoyle gecko (Rhacodactylus auriculatus), a pinstripe crested gecko, and a mossy New Caledonian gecko (Mniarogekko chahoua). These geckos are only found in the forests of New Caledonia in the South Pacific with many listed as vulnerable due to pressures from human activities including logging, wildfires and forest clearance, and wildlife trafficking. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2017.

Objective:

Students will be able to describe the impacts of removing exotic animals from their native environment, including impacts on the food chain, using details from reporting by Sean Gallagher. Note: This lesson is written with different exercises for early elementary and older elementary students.

Warm Up For All Grades:

  1. Ask students to consider the following: What’s you favorite animal and why?

  2. Let students know that today they are going to create a new animal together. "As a class we are going to come up with traits we want our animal to have and draw them on the board. Here I’ll start, I am going to draw big eyes for our animal.”

  3. After the animal drawing is finished, tell students, “imagine that this animal is one of three in the world” and discuss the following questions:

    1. Should our animal be allowed to live in the wild or be allowed to be kept as a pet?

    2. How would you feel if you went from being free outside in the wild to living in a smaller place like a home?

Introducing the resource for K-3rd grade:

  1. In China keeping wild animals as pets has become very popular. Journalist Sean Gallagher used photography and writing to research these animals and learn more about the impacts of having exotic animals as pets for The Guardian and National Geographic

  2. Look at Exotic Pet Owners of Beijing with students and ask them to consider the attached questions.

Activity for K-3rd grade:

Return to the photo of the python and ask, “Can anyone tell me what likes to eat snakes like pythons?” After students take several guesses, reveal the answer to them: “Hawks eat pythons.” Show or draw the graphic below:

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A food chain that has a snake on the left side with an arrow in the middle pointing at a hawk on the right.

A food chain that has a snake on the left side with an arrow in the middle pointing at a hawk on the right.

Help students physicalize this relationship with the following exercise:

  1. Divide the class into hawks and snakes. Tell the snakes they can quietly make the “ssss” sound and the hawks they can quietly make the “caw” sound.

  2. Have students stand up and have the “hawks” lightly tap the “snakes” on the shoulder to “eat” them.

  3. “While a python seems like a cool pet, let’s see what happens when we take snakes like pythons away from their homes.”

  4. Show or draw the graphic below:

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    A food chain that shows an arrow pointing to a hawk.

    A food chain that shows an arrow pointing to a hawk.

  6. Choose some of the "snakes" to be your pets and stand near you then have the remaining "snakes" do the previous activity.
  7. Have students stand up and have the “hawks” lightly tap the “snakes” on the shoulder to “eat” them.
  8. Have students discuss the following questions and write their answers on the board:
    • “Without the snakes, what do the hawks have to eat?”

    • “Is nature better or worse without snakes like pythons?”

Extension Activity for K-3rd grades:

  1. Assign each individual or small groups of students one of the animals from the article
  2. Have students make a poster that shows the animal’s relationship with an animal they eat or an animal who eats them. This should be shown through a flow chart similar to the ones presented previously.
  3. Students should also be able to answer the following question:
    • What happens to the other animal when your assigned animal is removed from where it lives?

Introducing the resource for 4th and 5th grade:

  1. In China keeping wild animals as pets has become very popular. Journalist Sean Gallagher used photography and writing to research these animals and learn more about the impacts of having exotic animals as pets for The Guardian and National Geographic

  2. Let students review Exotic Pet Owners of Beijing independently or in small groups. As students read, they should consider the attached questions

Activity for 4th and 5th grade:

Go back to the photo of the python and ask, “Can anyone tell me what eats snakes like pythons?” Let students guess and then reveal the answer to them: “Hawks eat pythons.” Show or draw the graphic below:

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A food chain showing a mouse, snake, then hawk.

A food chain showing a mouse, snake, then hawk.

Ask, “Can anyone tell me what snakes eat?” Let students guess and then reveal the answer to them: “Snakes eat mice. Let’s explore what happens when snakes are taken as pets.” Show or draw the graphic below:

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A food chain showing a mouse and a hawk. In between the mouse and the hawk is a blank space where the snake should be.

A food chain showing a mouse and a hawk. In between the mouse and the hawk is a blank space where the snake should be.

  1. Divide students into two groups

  2. Assign one group to discuss what happens to the mice if snakes are taken away and assign the other group to discuss what happens to hawks if snakes are taken away

  3. Have students share their ideas with the whole group

  4. Ask students the following questions in whole group:

    • “What happens to the population of mice without snakes eating them?”

    • “What happens to the population of hawks without snakes to eat?”

    • What is the impact when an animal becomes endangered or extinct?

    • What is causing animals to become endangered? What can be done to help?

Extension Activity for 4th and 5th grade:

  1. Assign each individual or small groups of students one of the animals from the article.

  2. Have students make a poster that shows the animal's relationship with its predator and prey in its natural habitat. This should be shown through a flow chart similar to the ones presented previously.

  3. Using details from the article and their own research, students will then prepare a short report that inludes the following:

    •  A description of the animal, its predator/prey relationships and habitat

    • An analysis of the possible effects of removing this animal from their natural habitat.

Educator Notes: 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.10

Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.K.5

Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.1.2

Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.1
Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.1
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Warm Up:

Students can come up one by one to draw a new characteristic for the animal or they can describe it to the teacher who can draw it.

Introducing the resource:

Read captions directly from the text or summarize them according to comprehension level of students.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.5
Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.3

Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.5.1.B

Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.

Objective: Students will be able to identify some issues with removing exotic animals from their native environment and gain insight into the food chain.

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