Elementary Connections: All About Habitat

What is a habitat? What do habitats provide? What different habitats are located near your home? What different types of plants or animals could live there?

What is a Habitat?

A habitat is somewhere an organism (plant, animal, etc.) lives and finds what it needs to survive: food, water, shelter, space. Habitats are usually characterized by factors such as the shape of the land, amount of water, vegetation (plant) growth, temperature, and sometimes even human impact. 

Some organisms might be able to travel between different habitats, while others are able to find the resources they need in many different kinds of landscapes. Others still have very specific needs and are only able to live in a specific kind of habitat, such as Maine’s endangered Piping Plovers and Least Terns who require safe sandy beaches to nest.

The plants, wildlife, and other organisms in a given area have adaptations that help them survive there, such as physical traits or behaviors that make it easier for them to find food, stay safe, and compete with others.

In their habitats, organisms fill a niche, or special role in the interconnected system of that area. How they interact with the landscape and other organisms makes up their niche. Some examples are:

  • Producers (plants, taking energy from the sun to produce their own foods)
  • Consumers (wildlife that eats growing plants, transferring the energy to the consumer)

Habitat Assessment

Maine’s landscape is made up of so many different kinds of habitat: forests, fields, meadows, marshes, swamps, ponds, bogs, suburban, urban, rivers, mountains, beaches, lakes, ocean . . . the list could go on and on.

Grab your nature journal (or a piece of paper), and head outside with a grown-up from your household to investigate what the habitat around you might offer for wildlife. This can be done in your yard, at a park, in your neighborhood, in the forest, or by the ocean–anywhere! 

Draw this simple chart in your journal and begin recording what you can spot around you. Think from a plant’s or animal’s perspective to consider what they might need that this area could offer.

Resource General habitat type: Forest
Food: Green leaves, acorns, squirrels, bird eggs, grubs and insects
Water: Small stream
Shelter: Tree branches, hollow logs, rock pile, leaf litter

– What kinds of plants or animals would be able to live in this habitat?
          Find 1 producer
          Find 2 consumers
What might plants or animals need to find elsewhere? What is missing?
How does this habitat compare to another habitat nearby? If you can, try repeating this in a different area. You might notice some overlap in species that are more flexible with what they need to survive!

Our educators, scientists, advocates, and naturalists are committed to keeping you connected to the natural world as we deal with the coronavirus situation together. Check in every weekday on our Connections page for family activities, parent/teacher tips, backyard birding, nature exploration at our sanctuaries, and more.

Next Generation Science Standards

“Crosscutting Concepts” for all Elementary Grades in this module: 

  • Patterns
  • Systems and System Models
  • Energy and Matter
  • Structure and Function

K Performance Expectations:

  • Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive. K-LS1-1
  • Construct an argument supported by evidence for how plants and animals (including humans) can change the environment to meet their needs. K-ESS2-2
  • Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals (including humans) and the places they live. K-ESS3-1
  • Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment. K-ESS3-3

3rd Grade Performance Expectations:

  • Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all. 3-LS4-3
  • Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment. 3-LS3-2
  • Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change. 3-LS4-4 

4th Grade Performance Expectations:

  • Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction. 4-LS1-1

5th Grade Performance Expectations:

  • Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water. 5-LS1-1

NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Retrieved from http://www.nextgenscience.org/