(Contenido disponible en Español está marcado abajo)
What is a habitat? A habitat is the area in which a group of plants and animals live and interact. An animal’s habitat provides it with food, shelter, and a place to raise its young. Although all habitats share the same basic function, they can vary a lot! Today, we’re going to look at two specific habitats that you can find near the Nature Museum!
What is a grassland?
A grassland is a habitat with with open, flat areas. As you might guess, most of the plants growing in a grassland are grasses. Grasslands are actually the largest habitat in North America! There are different types of grasslands, but the one we’re most familiar with in Illinois is the prairie. Before it was converted to farmland, much of Illinois was tallgrass prairie! (That’s where our state nickname comes from!) Want to learn more about grasslands? Check out this book, “A Grasslands Habitat.”
Guiding Question: What impact do you think turning prairie land into farmland had on the animals that lived in that habitat? Do you think they had to find a new place to live? Why or why not?
What is a wetland?
As their name suggests, wetlands are part land and part water. Like grasslands, there are different types of wetlands. But all wetlands have these elements: they are wet for at least part of the year, they have plants that thrive in water, and their soil is very wet. Swamps, marshes, and ponds are all types of wetlands. Explore more facts about wetlands in this book, “Wetlands: Soggy Habitat.”
Guiding Question: What kinds of animals live in wetlands? Why do think those animals live there? What animals definitely wouldn’t live in a wetland?
Exploring Museum grounds virtually
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Although our grounds are in an urban settings, they do have vignettes of what these two distinct habitats look like. Click here to explore the wetland virtually and here to explore the prairie virtually. Grab a pencil and a piece of paper to record your observations and let’s go visit some habitats! Click here for instructions.
Can you guess which animal lives in which habitat?
(Disponible en español)
Believe it or not, there are lots of clues that animals give us about where they live. Many of them have to do with their body parts, like their feet, their limbs, and their body covering. Click here to see if you can guess which animals lives where.
Guiding Question: What clues does this green heron give you about where it lives?
Online exhibit: Pattern in Nature
Local artist Katherine Lampert was so inspired by a fossil in our collection that she created a series of works based on it! While you can’t explore it in-person right now, we have a digital exploration of the exhibit for you to watch here.
Make your own rock pond!
Now that we’ve explored wetland habitats, let’s make our own! Click here for instructions on making your own rock fish pond.
Teaching Tip: Although this write-up only focuses on two things you might find in a pond, use your materials to expand the life in your pond. What creatures do you know that live in ponds? How can you recreate them and incorporate them into this same setting?
Behind the Scenes
Remember how we talked about other insects that look a lot like (mimic) bees? Dr. Allison encountered this beautiful newly emerged snowberry clearwing moth in the field recently. It looks a lot like a bee, but it’s not!