Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Survival of the Fittest

April Martin


Do all creatures in the sea swim? Do all of them have sharp teeth? No! Students use information learned about animal habitats and how they survive to develop their own “never before seen” marine creatures.


The student knows that behavior is a response to the environment.

The student knows adaptations that aid in species survival (for example, protective coloration, hibernation, delayed implantation).


-Construction Paper
-Crayons, markers, or colored pencils
-Glitter (optional)
-Pipe Cleaners (optional)
-Notebook Paper
-Computer with word processing program (optional)


1. If you are going to allow your students to type their essays in the classroom, turn on your computers and have them ready before class on Day One.
2. Obtain enough of the art supplies (listed in the Materials Required section) for each student in the class and place them in an easily accessible location in the classroom. If your students are in lab groups, you may wish to place supplies at each lab station.


Day One

1. Review with students (or teach if not covered previously) the fact that each organism lives in its habitat and is able to live and survive through its own unique features or characteristics. For example, a shark has extremely sharp teeth to obtain food and protect itself. Other examples include a flounder blending in with the floor of the ocean and many fish using their fins and tails to glide through the water. (Give other examples, if possible, of marine organisms who use camouflage to protect themselves, those who move in a way that is different from other creatures, and how some obtain their food in a unique way.)

2. Allow students the opportunity to share their own examples of marine creatures who have unique characteristics which enable them to adapt to their environment and survive as well as how those creatures respond to their environment. (An example of responding to the environment could be a shark smelling blood and attacking.)

3. Once the teacher feels confident that students understand that each organism has its own unique characteristics which allow it to move, protect itself, obtain food, and survive, he or she should tell students they should use their minds and think up, or design in their head, their own marine creature. Tell students this creature should be one which does not already exist; however, it can be a variation of or be inspired by one which is real.

4. Next, instruct students to write a five paragraph essay detailing the characteristics of their marine creature. The essay should include an introduction, three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. Tell them the essays should include and will be graded on the following: Does the introduction let the reader know the name of the creature and introduce the creature, do the supporting paragraphs give details about what the creature looks like specifically, how it moves or if it moves (plankton, nekton or benthos), how it obtains food, what its habitat looks like and where it is located (in the top, center, or ocean floor), and how it protects itself (camouflage, spines on the body, sharp teeth, stingers like a jellyfish, etc.). Does the conclusion summarize the essay? (Optional – you may wish to have students type their essays or make it optional.)

Day Two

1. Briefly review the material covered on day one, and ask students to take out their completed essays.

2. Tell students they are going to actually make a model of their marine creatures using construction paper, glue, scissors, colored pencils/crayons/markers, and other available art supplies.

3. Instruct students to reread their completed essays and try to visualize what the marine creature would look like if it were real. Tell them they will use the art supplies to actually make a model of the marine creature. If possible, they should make their creatures the actual size (unless, of course, it’s too big or small).

4. Tell students their creatures will be graded using a rubric. Explain to the students that it is very important for them to make sure they include all of these items when they make their model: their creature’s method of movement – if it is one that moves, their creature’s appearance as described in the essay, an opening or place through which their creature can obtain food, characteristics which will allow the creature to protect itself.

5. Allow a few students at a time to choose the art supplies they will need and return to their seats. (If supplies are located at their lab stations, they should just choose from those instead.) Tell them that once they have their materials, they may begin work on their creatures. Tell them they have 30 minutes to complete their creatures.

6. At the end of 30 minutes, ask everyone to clean up the area, return materials to the proper location, and have their essays and creatures in front of them.

7. When everyone is back in their seats, ask students to volunteer to share their creatures with the rest of the class. One suggestion is to have a student hold up the creature and allow other students to try to identify the creature’s means of locomotion, how it obtains food, and how it protects itself. If time permits, you may also have several students read aloud their essays following this.

8. Collect the creatures and essays from the students to be graded and returned at a later date.


Note: Use as a summative assessment if students have been given sufficient practice in the chosen Sunshine State Standard. If this is the first time students have been taught the standard, a formative assessment would be called for.
As a summative/formative assessment, students' essays will be assessed using a specific rubric. Students were given the rubric information prior to beginning the activities. As a summative/formative assessment, students' marine creatures will be assessed using an attached scoring instrument as a guide.


This lesson could also be used in another lesson involving animals besides marine creatures.

For students who are academically challenged, the teacher might want to reduce the number of required paragraphs in the essay as well as the number of requirements in making the model of the marine creature.

Web Links

Web supplement for Survival of the Fittest
Sea World

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