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Mapping Animal Behavior Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #:AELP-ANM004
AUTHOR: Maureen Jenner; Elem. Science Teacher The Community School, Sun Valley, Idaho Date: May 1994

Grade Level(s): 4, 5, 6


  • Science/Animals

OVERVIEW: Biologists need to know about animal behavior to protect endangered species or control disease or pests. The California Condor was down to one in the natural habitat and very few in captivity because of the pesticide DDT being used by farmers. Also the Tule Elk in Point Reyes California was near extinction until scientists found that these elk needed certain plants introduced back into the environment containing copper. Scientists need to know about sampling, animal mapping so that they don’t have to look at every single animal in order to make an inference about a problem.

PURPOSE: To discover through the use of inference and deduction the needs and wants of animals.

  • To learn how to carefully observe and record behavior systematically as the animal moves through its habitat.
  • To learn about sampling to get statistics for inference.
  • To learn how to graph and what a graph can do.
  • To learn about caring for and being kind to all living creatures.
  • To learn about variables.

  • Live crickets – one in Ziploc  bag per group – crickets can be obtained from pet stores for about $.50/doz. – they are used for food for other pets. Hamsters, gerbils, goldfish can also be used (borrowed from pet stores or children in the classroom.) In this lesson we will be using crickets.
  • Large boxes – at least 8 X 10 (you can add paper to sides to make taller so that animal will not jump out).
  • Colored round dot stickers – about 1/2 in diameter – sheet of 80 per group.
  • Three blank 8 X 10 pieces of paper for each group.
  • 1 pencil per group.
  • Large clock with second hand.
  • 2 X 3 construction. paper for shelter (folded in a triangle)
  • Nuts, cereal, apple slice or bran for food.
  • Task cards:


    Number dots from 1 to 20 – three times.
    Place eyes on dots to show in which direction animal moves.
    At end of trial describe the animal’s actions.
    After recording for one trial, swap tasks with another team member.


    Make sure team members are ready to start.
    Tell Animal Manager when to place the animal in the center of box.
    Watch the clock and call Time! every 15 seconds for 5 min. (20 times).


    Watch closely where the animal moves.
    Tell the Recorder in which direction to place the dots.
    Remind your team members not to disturb the animal, not to touch it or talk too loudly.
    After observing for one trial, swap tasks with another team member.

    Animal Manager

    Hold the animal or its container until your team members are ready to begin mapping.
    Put the animal in the center of the box when Time keeper says to start.
    Hold the animal between trials.
    Keep the animal from escaping.
    After managing the animal for one trial, swap tasks with another team member.

  • Graph paper: Set up so that part of graph paper is to graph trial 1, part for trial 2 and part for trial 3. Everyone should participate and keep own copy for his/her own science journal.
  • Trial 1 – vertical axis Number of dots on Map 0 – 20 across bottom, write: IN THE OPEN AREA and NEXT TO WALLS and LOOKING IN CORNERS. Trial 2- across bottom horizontally: IN THE OPEN AREA NEXT TO WALLS, FACING INTO CORNERS, NEAR OR IN THE SHELTER.

    Trial 3 ,across bottom horizontally: IN THE OPEN AREA, NEXT TO WALLS, NEAR THE OR IN SHELTER, NEAR OR IN THE FOOD


    Library books or stories about animals near extinction.
    GEMS – Lawrence School of Science Cal. Berkeley Animal Mapping


    Read any material you find in library or elsewhere about the Tule Elk, California Condor, wolf, or any other interesting animal scientists are investigating.

    Put on board or large piece of paper so that all children can view, a large square or rectangle to represent the classroom. Then have large 1 stickers numbered from 1 – 20 with eyes on one side. Send one child out of the room for a few minutes while you explain to the rest of the class that you are going to map the child’s movements when he/she returns. Then have him/her come back. Map in front of the class on the board or large sheet of paper where he goes in the room. Every 20 seconds place a sticker with eyes pointed in the direction he is facing and on the spot on the paper showing his relationship to the room. Explain that the class will use the same technique to map movements of crickets.

    Assigning team tasks:

  • Divide class into teams of 4 students & give task cards
  • Explain 4 roles, have them read task cards aloud, emphasize tasks rotate.
  • Let teams take a few minutes to delegate tasks, number the dots and place eyes on dots.
  • Give box, cricket in Ziploc bag to animal manager.
  • Assign groups

  • Explain there will be 3 trials per cricket. In trial l, box will be empty.
  • Place animal in center of box, record movements every 15 sec. for 20 samples. Record movement by taking sticker and placing it on blank paper eyes facing correct direction, in corresponding location to the place in the box. If animal jumps out of box, put it back where it was and continue.
  • In trial 2,  box will have shelter. Fold a rectangular piece of construction paper to simulate a shelter. Follow same steps as trial 1. Look at your paper. Did the animal act differently now that there is a shelter to run to? Did the animal look at the shelter? What can you ‘infer’ from this?
  • TYING IT ALL TOGETHER: Place graphs from all groups on the board and discuss each graph and make inferences together as a whole group. Then have each child record his/her group’s findings and draw a picture about what the cricket in the box did most often in each of the 3 trials.

    May 1994

    These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.