The World Beneath Your Feet: Create a Soil Creature

Adapted from Project Wild, Adaptation Artistry

Post-Visit Activity, All Grades 

Objective

With background information gained on their visit to the Nature Center, students will create their own soil creature from craft materials.  They will describe the adaptations their animal uses to survive in a soil habitat. 

Materials

  • Cardboard tubes, aluminum cans, Velcro pieces, construction paper, seeds, pompoms, clothespins, fabric, shoelaces, popsicle sticks, anything that can be used to create a 3D creature
  • Cardboard bases (one per group)
  • Glue, markers and scissors
  • doc Create a Creature Worksheet

Background

Soil habitats have unique features that require soil animals to have special adaptations for survival.  An adaptation is a physical change in an organism that allows it to better survive in its habitat.  Soil habitats are dark, damp, cool, less airy, and more compressed space-wise than the open-air habitat above.  Abundant dead materials provide food for many soil creatures.  There are some things about the soil habitat that are similar to above-ground habitats:  there are predators, scavengers, plant-eaters, and limited amounts of food and space.  Soil animals have adapted to this environment in a number of ways.  Their bodies are usually made to fit in tight spaces; they rely on senses other than sight to find their way around; many specialize in eating only dead things.  Soil animals fulfill an important role in many ecosystems by decomposing dead materials.  These animals also have unique ways of defending themselves from enemies.  Many have tough exoskeletons (potato bugs), or even detachable limbs/body segments (daddy-long-legs).  Others will squirt glue on their enemies (termites), use poison to hunt (centipedes), sense the world with their nose (moles) or antennas (ants). 

Procedure

Review with students the unique aspects of a soil habitat.  For older students write their ideas down on the board.  Ask students, "How is it different from the open-air habitat people live in?"  (There is less light, lots of tight spaces, it can be damp, the temperature is relatively constant compared to above the ground, and much of the food is dead plants or dead animals.)  Then ask students if they know some of the interesting adaptations soil creatures have for surviving beneath the soil.  See Background Information above.

Tell students they will be creating imaginary soil creatures.  Make sure students understand these creatures are not real, but they will have certain roles that they will have to fulfill as an underground creature:

  • aerators (a creature that mixes the soil and creates air spaces)
  • predators (a creature that eats other animals)
  • scavengers (a creature that eats dead animals)
  • decomposers (a creature that eats dead plants) 

Younger students can work on creation of the four different creatures as a class.  Only one creature is made at a time by the teacher.  As the teacher asks leading questions such as, "What kind of mouth should our predator have to catch other creatures?" students give suggestions and help pick out an appropriate material.  Another tactic would be to divide the class into smaller groups as described for the older students below, but have an adult with each group helping them along. 

Older students should form into teams of 3 to 4.  Group teams on the floor around the craft materials.  Give each team a piece of cardboard to use as a base for their creation, several pairs of scissors, and a bottle of glue. 

Give each group a handout, telling them what job their creature will have.  Provide guidelines for creating the creature: 

  • Each team will make only one creature.
  • Only one person from each team may collect materials from the craft supplies at a time.
  • At the end of the creative time, all craft supplies not used to make the creatures should be cleaned up. 

Remind the children they need to think about what and how their animal eats, how it moves, how it protects itself from predators, and what its home looks like.  Make sure it has a name!  Leading questions on the sheets should help them in the creation process.  They can combine different characteristics of insects, spiders, centipedes, earthworms or other animals.  They will get to discuss and display their animals after they build them.  Walk around to each group and assign them a job worksheet for their creature. 

Allow a minimum of thirty minutes for the students to create.  Ideally, however, students need at least forty five minutes to an hour to create.  Many will spend the first ten to fifteen minutes brainstorming and thinking before actually creating.  To keep students on track, tell them how many minutes are left occasionally.  Check to make sure all group members are participating.  Towards the end of the creative time, do a dramatic countdown and watch the children race to finish. 

After all the craft supplies are cleaned up, give the students a few minutes to complete their worksheets. 

Regroup and have each team present its creature.  Ask them how their creature is like a real animal.  Make sure they tell how the creature eats, moves, hides, defends itself, etc.  Leave the creatures on display. 

Extensions

Write a story about the creature or draw a picture of the animal in a daily activity (eating, digging, defending itself).  Write a story about two of the animals interacting.