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Lesson Plan #: AELP-ECL0201
Submitted by: Dr. Richard Oakes Peters
Email: docdk39@hotmail.com
School/University/Affiliation: Augusta State University (GA)

January 25, 2001

Grade Level: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Adult/Continuing Education


  • Science/Ecology

Duration: Five 50-75 minute sessions

Description: In school and at field-based sites, students investigate the characteristics and history of deserts.


  • Students will understand the physical characteristics of a selected desert biome.
  • Students will understand techniques/strategies used by a variety of desert fauna to adapt to/survive in a desert environment.
  • Students will understand ways that a desert biome affects the dress and culture of human inhabitants.
  • Objectives:

  • Students will use a variety of print/non-print materials and resources to collect relevant data about deserts.
  • Students will interact with community resource people at a selected desert biome site.
  • Students will observe the characteristics of desert flora and fauna and collect data.
  • Students will communicate information about a desert biome to others — using reports, audiovisual presentations, PowerPoint presentations, visual displays, etc.
  • Students will create a tabletop replica of a desert environment.
  • Materials:

    • community resource people
    • a desert biome site, with transportation to/from the site.
    • books/magazines (see References below)
    • computer software
    • Internet sites
    • films, filmstrips, slide/tape presentations, videos, PowerPoint presentations, etc.
    • 8mm/16mm motion picture cameras
    • 35mm still photography cameras
    • video tape equipment


  • biome – A major community (flora & fauna) located on a specific continental sub-division of the solid portion of the earth.
  • adaptation – Changes that occur in the physical structure, color, diet, shelter, consumption of water, etc., of flora and fauna.
  • Procedure:  
    As described in my ERIC document (ED380359: Learning By Doing in Real Life and Real-To-Life Situations), students will have varied experiences depending upon the educational context (observing the characteristics of a recreated desert biome at a museum of natural history versus actually walking around in a real desert environment). For example, using photography (ECOGRAPHY) equipment, students take pictures/videotape of things observed — for later analysis and display in the classroom. Community resource people/site resource people discuss the flora/fauna of desert environments and explain the role that deserts play in Earth’s biosphere. In settings where deserts do exist, students create community awareness campaigns. The purpose of the campaigns is to inform citizens about the fragile nature of deserts, ways to protect desert environments, and the importance of limiting ORV (off-road vehicle) use in deserts — in order to protect plant life and to not disturb the contour of the sand. Assessment: Students demonstrate acquired knowledge and research skills development by: creating oral/written/visual reports; correctly answering 80% of objective test items (true/false, matching, multiple choice, completion or supply); responding to essay questions; conducting a community awareness campaign; locating selected desert sites on a map or globe; creating a tabletop recreation of a desert biome; and writing poems and songs. Three sample test questions are provided below:

  • A desert is a:
    a) moist, rocky region
    b) semi-dry, plains region
    c) dry, sandy region
    d) wet, forest region
    ( Answer: c )
  • Which of the following would NOT be found in a desert environment?
    a) snakes
    b) elk
    c) cactus
    d) vultures
    ( Answer: b )
  • Which of the following is NOT a desert?
    a) Death Valley
    b) Mohave
    c) Sahara
    d) Everglades
    ( Answer: d )
  • Useful Internet Resources:
    * Desert Life in the American Southwest

    * Sierra Club

    * The Wildlife Society

    * The Nature Conservancy

    * Environmental Protection Agency

    Other References:

  • Alcock, J. (1985). Sonoran Desert spring. Chicago , IL: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Benson, L. D. (1982). The Cacti of the United States and Canada . Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • McClaran, M. P. (ed). (1995). The Desert Grassland . Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press.
  • Shreve, F. and I. C. Wiggins. (1964). Vegetation and Flora of the Sonoran Desert . Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.