Learning the Causes of Extinction
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
There are five major causes of extinction: habitat loss, an introduced species, pollution, population growth, and overconsumption. Through the activity, students will create a list of reasons why animals can become extinct.
- Sort various extinction scenarios into categories
- Develop a list of the five possible reasons why animals become extinct.
- Learn the acronym HIPPO as a way of remembering causes of extinction.
- Scenario Cards, prepared ahead of time by the teacher
Set Up and Prepare
- Create scenario cards for each of the below causes of extinction. Multiple examples of each cause will be needed. An example: I lived in a forest until workers came and cut down all of the trees. (habitat loss) I lived near people until the smoke from their buildings made me sick. (pollution)
H- Habitat loss
I - Introduced species
P- Population growth
- Write this student-friendly objective on the board: "We will sort various scenarios into categories to discover the main reasons animals become extinct."
In small groups, students will sort scenarios into like categories. Teacher will guide the students with questions like, "What do the scenarios have in common?" or "Do you notice any scenarios that are similar?"
Students will label each category by completing the sentence, "These animals all became extinct because..." Groups will have one sentence for each category explaining their reasoning.
After the scenarios have been sorted, bring the whole group back together.
Ask students to explain why they sorted the scenarios into the categories that they did. "Tell me your thinking on that."
List student sentences on the board. Ask the group, "Do we see any of these sentences that could be combined?" Guide students into combining the sentences to match the following reasons: habitat loss, an introduced species, pollution, population growth, and overconsumption.
Teach the acronym H.I.P.P.O. as a way to remember the five main causes of extinction.
Review the student-friendly objective. Ask students to reflect by asking them the following question, "How did you help your group meet this objective?"
Supporting All Learners
Have students who receive Special Education services and English Language Learner services revisit the scenarios and review the vocabulary with their service providers.
As a challenge, and as the unit progresses, ask students to expand on what they have learned by creating additional scenarios that fit into the categories, using specific animals. Can students use the scenario cards and the causes of extinction to create a board game?
Students can take copies of the scenarios home to cut out and sort with their families in a game-like situation.
Students will sort scenarios into like categories.
- What worked well?
- What would you do differently next time?
- What were the students able to do well?
- What did the students struggle with during the lesson?
Observe students at work and collect the sentence labels for the categories to assess group work. Ask yourself:
- Were the students able to sort the scenarios into like categories?
- Did their categories make sense?
- Were the students able to explain their thinking when asked about the sentences that labeled the categories?