Desert Communities Third Grade Core: Standard 2 Objective 2 Describe the interactions between living and nonliving things in a small environment.

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1 Desert Communities Third Grade Core: Standard 2 Objective 2 Describe the interactions between living and nonliving things in a small environment. (Discovering Deserts NatureScope: page 40, 43, 44) Objective: Describe plant and animal relationships that exist in the Sonoran Desert. Explain how plants and animals in a community depend on the non-living environment. Materials Copies of animal pages Easel paper Glue Crayons or chalk Scissors Pictures of deserts Procedure: In this activity, your class can compare desert communities around the world and then focus on the varied life of the Sonoran Desert in North America. They will see that the plants and animals in all communities depend on each other and on the non-living parts of the environment to survive. 1. First ask the students to think about desert plants and animals that they know off. 2. Show some pictures of different deserts around the world (Mojave Desert, Chihuahuan Desert, Great Basin Desert, and Sonoran Desert). How are they different? (Sandy soil, rocky soil, fog, canyons and mesas, salt flats or sand dunes and so on). Explain that these physical differences provide special growing conditions that support certain kinds of plants and these plants support certain kinds of animals. 3. Hand out the animal and plant squares (below) and let students spend a few minutes researching the animals and plants in a group. They will need to discover what the animal eats or what eats the animal/plant and where the animal lives (e.g. burrows, on cliffs...). 4. Create a desert scene in small groups (pattern after Sonoran desert) on the easel paper. Then have students color and cut out desert plants and animal squares and paste them on the desert scene. 5. Next have children draw lines to connect the pictures of the plants and animals that depend on each other in some way. 6. When done, discuss the relationships the children have discovered. Also talk about how important the non-living parts of the environment (soil, water, sunlight) are to all the living things. Discuss what would happen if parts of the community disappeared (e.g. what would happen if all the saguaro cacti died off?).

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4 Information for Teacher about the Picture Pages 1. Coyote: Feeds at night on mice and other rodents, rabbits and hares and sometimes mule deer and pronghorn antelope. Also eats saguaro cactus fruit, mesquite beans, and other plant parts. Sometimes digs burrows, which it goes into to escape heat. 2. Ringtail: Related to a raccoon. Eats birds, insects, kangaroo rats, pack rats, and lizards. Also eats cactus fruit. Usually lives on rocky ledges or near water. Is eaten by bobcats, great horned owls, and other large predators. 3. Desert Grasses: Grow in many parts of the Sonoran Desert. Provide food for mule deer, rodents and other herbivores. 4. Desert Tortoise: Burrows in the ground to escape heat. Young often eaten by foxes, coyotes, and other predators. Feeds on desert grasses, wildflowers, and cactus fruit. 5. Prickly Pear Cactus: Quail, doves, woodpeckers, kangaroo rats, pack rats, jackrabbits, peccaries, deer and many other animals feed on its fruit, seeds, and stem. Many animals take shelter in its shade. 6. Roadrunner: Eats lizards, snakes (even rattlesnakes), insects, and scorpions. Runs to chase prey and escape predators. Builds a nest of twigs in desert plants. 7. Saguaro Cactus: Found on dry, rocky, slopes and flats. White-winged doves and woodpeckers eat its seeds. Many animals eat its fruit. Many animals also nest in the trunk, including elf owls, Gila woodpeckers, and cactus wrens. 8. Peccary: Small pig-like animal that lives in thickets and travels in small bands. Feeds on prickly pear cactus and acorns, as well as insects, rattlesnakes, and lizards. 9. Kangaroo Rat: Burrows or builds mounds. Eats seeds of prickly pear, mesquite, and other plants. Also eats some insects. Provides food for owls, coyotes, snakes, and other predators. Jumps to escape predators. 10. Turkey Vulture: Often nests in canyon areas. Feeds on dead animals. Important scavenger in the desert. 11. Mesquite: A spiny shrub with yellow flowers and lacy leaves. Forms tough pods that are filled with seeds. Jackrabbits, quail, kangaroo rats, ringtails, and other animals eat the seeds. Many birds nest in its branches. Provides shade for mammals and reptiles. 12. Jackrabbit: Feeds on a variety of plants, including grasses and flowering herbs. Also eats cactus. Eaten by coyotes, bobcats, owls, and other desert predators. Large ears (one third as long as its body) help get rid of excess body heat. 13. Lubber Grasshopper: Eats desert grasses and other vegetation. Provides food for many desert animals, including kangaroo rats, tarantulas, and elf owls. 14. Scorpion: Hunts at night for spiders, crickets, small lizards, and other small creatures. Is eaten by roadrunners, snakes, and owls. Often hides under rocks and near plants. 15. Spadefoot Toad: Eats insects. Eaten by snakes and larger toads. 16. Sidewinder Rattlesnake: Lives in low desert areas. Feeds on small rodents and lizards. Sometimes eaten by larger snakes, birds of prey, and roadrunners. 17. Fringe-toed Lizard: Found in sandy areas. Often lives in abandoned kangaroo rat burrows. Feeds on insects, flowers, and leaves. Is eaten by side-winders, kit foxes, and birds of prey. 18. Mule Deer: Is mainly a browser. Feeds on trees and shrubs as well as grasses. Preyed upon by mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, and wolves.

5 Mojave Desert The Mojave Desert Hot, dry desert Small amounts of rain (less than 6 inches) Lots of Joshua trees and Yucca

6 Chihuahuan Desert The Chihuahuan Desert Hot and high-elevation desert This desert is mostly in Mexico, southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and west Texas. Grasses, small cacti, and frost-tolerant species such as woody lilies, and soap tree yucca.

7 Great Basin Desert The Great Basin Desert Cold, dry, high-elevation, northern desert Receives small amounts (4 to 11 inches) of precipitation as snow during long winters. Much of the valley soils are salty. Has big sagebrush, saltbush

8 Sonoran Desert The Sonoran Desert Warm, low-elevation (less than 2,000 feet) subtropical desert Receives predictable rain during two rainy seasons: the winter season and the summer monsoon season. The vegetation is diverse: creosote bush, large species of cactus (e.g. saguaro)

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