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Amazing Mammals: A Christian Middle School Biology Lesson

Updated on May 18, 2019
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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 8.

Christian Middle School Biology Lesson: Amazing Mammals
Christian Middle School Biology Lesson: Amazing Mammals

This is the 13th lesson in a series of 32 hands-on Christian lessons covering middle school biology. This lesson focuses on the amazing design of mammals. Start with mammal presentations, take a tracks pop quiz, research on mammal orders, and finish with fun Mammal Olympic Games. I used this plan while teaching a 55 minute middle school biology class. Each lesson plan includes homework assignments and a variety of hands-on activities to make each lesson engaging & memorable. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, homeschool, after-school program, or co-op!

These lessons are written for a class that meets once a week. If your class meets 5 days a week, simply do this lesson one day a week and use the homework assignments (at the bottom of the page) for the work for the other days of the week.

Homework & Presentation

1. Pass out tickets to students who completed their homework.

2. Have each student present on their selected mammal. Each presentation should be about 2-3 minutes.

Animal Tracks Pop Quiz

3. For homework, students were supposed to try to find animal tracks. Pass out the Animal Tracks page and give students a minute to identify as many tracks as they can. They should write them on the worksheet. Award the student(s) who correctly identify the most tracks.

You will need:

4. Quickly discuss the tracks. Ask the students what they know about tracks. Share some information such as:

  • Cats (except cheetahs) have retractable claws, so you can easily differentiate cat tracks from dog tracks because cat tracks won't show the claws.
  • Some animals, like foxes, bobcats, and pretty much all types of cats & dogs, walk on their toes rather than their full foot. You can only see the center pads & toes in their prints.
  • Since fingers & toes are called digits, we call animals that walk on their toes digitigrades. Animals that walk on their feet are called plantigrades. Animals that walk on hooves are called unguligrades. Can you think of an animal that you might see tracks of around here that walks on hooves? (white tailed deer)
  • You can tell how big a deer is simply by looking at the prints. How will a larger deer's tracks be different from a smaller deer's? (larger & deeper)
  • Animals that live in trees (like squirrels) sometimes bound when they're on the ground, & sometimes their larger back feet will land ahead of their front paws. The front feet will be side by side.
  • Animals that live on the ground & hop (such as rabbits) will have their hind leg prints in front of their front paw tracks when they are hopping away from a predator, but usually one front paw will be in front of the other.

Amazing Mammals

5. Again emphasize how Creation Scientists believe that many animal species came from one kind. God put many different gene options in each kind. Natural Selection has quite a bit to do with why particular traits have become more pronounced in certain geographic regions.

6. When scientists view animal classification from an evolutionary standpoint, they are looking for which animals evolved from similar creatures. How do creation scientists view animal classification? (Simply as a way to organize animals with similar traits into groups, realizing they will all have similar designers due to them all having the same Designer.)

7. Have students look at a classification chart, such as the one in the book. Name off a few orders & have students call out which traits are shared by animals within those orders (such as gnawing mammals, mammals that lay eggs, mammals that have odd-toed hooves, etc.).

8. Assign each student a specific animal from the textbook, either A Beka's Order & Design or Exploring Creation with Zoology 3.

  • After giving them a couple minutes to read the section from the textbook, have them share a few interesting bits about God specially designed that mammal.
  • After they have shared, add any additional tidbits such as the ones below if they didn't include that information.
  • I did not write the information on the board so that the students would focus their attention on the photos & information in the textbook.
  • These should each be really quick.

Book to Use for Animal Reports in the Above Activity (Activity 8)

Exploring Creation with Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day (Young Explorer Series)
Exploring Creation with Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day (Young Explorer Series)

Each of the students will be doing a brief report on animals in activity 8. If you do not have a specific class textbook, this was our favorite textbook covering each of the animals. The author does a great job at keeping the information interesting as she writes in a conversational manner. The information is presented from a creationist standpoint and shares many aspects of how the features in the various animals points to God & His Design. This is the book that I am using at home to go into more depth to compliment the brief overview provided in the A Beka Textbook.

 
Brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus)
Brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus) | Source

Sloths (Order Edntata: Without Teeth)

  • Have 8-9 (not 7) neck vertebrate so can rotate neck further
  • slowest mammals
  • can hang upside down without using muscle energy
  • hair grows from belly to back (opposite of what’s found on other mammals with dense fur) so water can run off more easily & not rot
  • fur that allows algae growth for camouflage
  • Does our local zoo have these?

Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)
Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) | Source

Anteaters (Order Edntata: Without Teeth)

  • Tongues can stick out father than length of their head
  • Tongue has tiny hooks & sticky saliva to catch insects quickly
  • Front paws designed to easily tear into insect mounds
  • Thick hair protects it from ants & termites
  • Giant anteater visits 200 mounds a day
  • Tamandua = central American anteater with prehensile tail - What is a prehensile tail? The tail is capable of grabbing, just like ones on New World monkeys.
  • Does our local zoo have these?

Nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)
Nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) | Source

Armadillo (Order Edntata: Without Teeth)

  • Spanish for “little armored one”
  • designed with flexible bands that allow it to roll into ball when threatened
  • fairy armadillo of Argentina is 6 inches
  • giant armadillo is 4 ft., 9 inches
  • Does our local zoo have these?

Southern short-tailed shrew (Blarina carolinensis)
Southern short-tailed shrew (Blarina carolinensis) | Source

Shrews (Order Insectivora: Insect Eaters)

  • 3/4 of Order Insectivora are shrews
  • mouse-like with long-pointed noses
  • daily must eat body weight in food because of high metabolism
  • temperature drop while sleep to conserve energy
  • very nervous & can die of a heart attack if startled
  • short-tailed shrew of North America is the only mammal with a venomous bite
  • some species use echolocation - Unlike bats, they use it to investigate their habitats rather than to find food.
  • Does our local zoo have these?

Eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus)
Eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) | Source

Moles (Order Insectivora: Insect Eaters)

  • can bury itself within seconds
  • designed with flexible hair that will lie perfectly flat no matter what direction, which resists dirt
  • some have special organs at end of nose that respond to touch & vibration
  • favorite food = earthworms & will store them for snacks
  • Does our local zoo have these?

European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)
European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) | Source

Hedgehog (Order Insectivora: Insect Eaters)

  • barbless spines
  • will roll into ball when alarmed
  • predators: fox & badger, which roll it into puddle or pond = when unroll to swim = kill
  • immune to almost all insect & snake poisons
  • Does our local zoo have these?

Clockwise: Common Egyptian Fruit Bat Rousettus aegyptiacus, Mexican Free-Tail Bat Tadarida brasiliensis, Myotis myotis, Lesser Short-Nose Fruit Bat Cynopterus sphinx, Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, Common Vampire Bat Desmodus rotundus
Clockwise: Common Egyptian Fruit Bat Rousettus aegyptiacus, Mexican Free-Tail Bat Tadarida brasiliensis, Myotis myotis, Lesser Short-Nose Fruit Bat Cynopterus sphinx, Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, Common Vampire Bat Desmodus rotundus | Source

Bats (Order Chiroptera: Wing hand)

*Depending on how many students you have, either assign this to one fast-reading student, or assign to 3 students to share about the following bats: vampire, flying fox, & Kitti's hog-nosed bat.*

  • What is echolocation?
  • Only flying mammal
  • No feathers so fly differently from birds – designed with thin skin stretched between fingers to form wing & thumb is free & can be used as claw
  • Why does it have weak hind legs? It hangs rather than perches
  • Live in large colonies
  • Has a variety of faces
  • Feeds primarily on insects - Helps limit mosquito population
  • Vampire bat – feeds on blood & has a chemical in blood to keep blood from clotting – drinks 2 Tbsp. a night
  • Echolocation – even around thousands of bats, it can still pick up its own signal
  • They have good eyesight
  • Largest: flying foxes with fruit juicer mouth (wingspan of 6 feet - the size of a full-grown man) - A bat flying fox boat conservatory in Gainesville, FL has an open house every year if you want to see them & learn about them.
  • Smallest mammal is the smallest bat: Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, which is the size of a bumblebee
  • *I also showed a picture of a fossilized bat that is supposedly millions of years old...but still looks like a modern day bat.*
  • Which ones of these have you seen at our local zoo?

Tarsier (Carlito syrichta)
Tarsier (Carlito syrichta) | Source

Promimians (Order Primate)

*Depending on how many students you have, assign each promimian to a different student if needed.*

  • Includes the smallest primates that look the least like monkeys: lemurs, bush babies, lorises, pottos, & tarsiers
  • Lemurs only found in Madagasgar
  • Lemurs have nails instead of claws on second digit that act as grooming claw
  • Bush babies designed with large eyes for good night vision & round bodies with long, tufted tail = rudder & stabilizer when jumping
  • Lorises & pottos are like bush babies but slower. When threatened, will just let go of branch & fall
  • Lorises & pottos designed with more vertebrae than any other primate = more flexibility. Pottp has vertebrae used for head butting & protects it when it rolls into a ball
  • Tarsiers - tips of fingers & toes are adhesive pads - help leap through trees
  • Tarsiers have round faces with very large eyes designed for nocturnal life
  • Tarsier can swivel its neck 180 degrees to view in all directions & avoid predators
  • Note: Some zoologists no longer include this subspecies of the primate order & divide tarsiers into one subspecies & the others into another.
  • Which of these have you seen at our local zoo?

Brown howler monkey (Alouatta guariba)
Brown howler monkey (Alouatta guariba) | Source

New World Monkeys (Order Primate)

  • Marmosets, capuchins, tamarins, douroucoulis, howlers, uakaris, spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, & woolly monkeys
  • Live in tropical forests of Central & South America
  • Most have prehensile tails, used for climbing trees - under-surface is hairless with ridged patter for grabbing
  • Widely spaced, rounded nostrils, hairless faces, thick woolly fur
  • Marmosets have lion-like manes & long canine teeth to drill holes into trees to drink its sap
  • Howler monkey call can be heard 2-3 miles away
  • Capuchins = most common monkey & used to be used by street performers (organ grinders)
  • Which of these have you seen at our local zoo?

Mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx)
Mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx) | Source

Old World Monkeys (Order Primates)

  • Mandrills, colubus monkey, baboon, macaque, & patas monkeys
  • In Africa & Asia
  • Closely spaced, comma-shaped nostrils
  • Tails aren't prehensile
  • 80% of diet is leaves, so have compartmentalized stomachs like cows
  • Baboons of Africa - aggressive - only predator it will run from is a lion
  • Macaques of Japan - during cold winters will bathe in hot springs to stay warm
  • Does our local zoo have any of these?

Western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla)
Western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) | Source

Apes (Order Primates)

*Depending on how many students you have, assign each ape to a different student if needed.*

  • Apes = primates without tails
  • Wider range of motion
  • Gibbon (lesser ape) - extremely long arms used for brachiation = swing from limb to limb using only arms
  • Gibbons run with arms above head for balance
  • Orangutan (great ape) - most arboreal (in trees) of all great apes - arms twice as long as legs, allowing them to climb & swing easily
  • Chimpanzee (great ape) - sleep in nests woven from branches & leaves
  • Chimpanzees are very smart; for example, they'll put a peeled stick in a termite mound & then pull it out for a meal of termites.
  • Gorilla (great ape) - largest primate - vegetarian & generally gentle
  • Gorillas sleep on ground in nests woven from branches & leaves & can tell how many gorillas are in troop by number of nests
  • Oldest male gorilla is a silverback = over age of 15 & has white or silver hair on back
  • Which of these is at our local zoo?

Mammal Olympics
Mammal Olympics

Mammal Olympics

9. It's time to participate in the Amazing Mammal Olympic Games. There are 2 ways to do this:

  • Option 1: If the weather is nice & you have 10-15 minutes, head outside. First assign the homework & have everyone pack up their items. Outside have the students race 25 feet (pre-marked in chalk). Mark how far & high they jump.
  • Option 2: If you're limited by time or the weather isn't cooperating, do this inside. Have them race down a hallway. Have them stand in pairs & do a standing leap. Mark who has leaped the furthest. See who can jump up & touch the ceiling or the highest place on the wall.

Can You Beat the Best?

  • 25 Yard (or Hallway) Dash: Ask which mammal they think is the fastest land mammal. (Cheetah) It's able to run at 60 miles per hour for shorter distances (200-300 yards). It uses this burst of speed to chase down its prey. If inside, have students race in small groups down the hallway. Time them on a watch. If outside, have the students race about 25 yards. Tell them that a cheetah could have run that in less than 1 second!
  • Broad Jump: Ask which mammal they think can jump the furthest in 1 leap. (cougar) A cougar can jump 30 feet from a still position. This allows the cougar to catch its prey, by stalking the animal and then leaping onto its back. See who can jump the furthest from a standing position. If outside, show how far 30 feet is to show the children how far a cougar could have jumped.
  • High Jump: Ask which mammal they think can leap up highest in the air. (Cougar) A red kangaroo is able to jump up more than 10 feet, but a cougar could easily jump up 15 feet into the air). If inside, see who can jump up & touch the ceiling. If outside, use chalk to mark 5 feet up on the wall. See who can jump with their feet up that high. A cougar could have easily jumped 3 times that height.
  • Great Breath Hold: Ask which mammal they think can hold their breath the longest. (Cuvier's beaked whale) A Cuvier's beaked whale has been clocked at holding its breath for 138 minutes. That's over 2 hours! See who can hold their breath the longest.

You will need:

  • a way to keep time such as a watch
  • chalk for marking out distances (optional)
  • measuring tape (optional)

(The Mammal Olympics idea is from Ranger Rick's NatureScope Amazing Mammals Part I.)

A Beka's Science: Order & Design textbook
A Beka's Science: Order & Design textbook

Homework

Page numbers refer to the pages in A Beka's Science: Order & Design.

  • Friday: Read pp. 206-212 & answer 4 questions of your choice on p. 212.
  • Monday: Read pp. 212-219 & answer 4 questions of your choice on p. 220.
  • Tuesday: Read pp. 220-222 & answer 2 questions of your choice on p. 222.
  • Wednesday: Read pp. 222-228 & answer 4 questions of your choice on p. 228.
  • Extra Credit (3 tickets): Complete this Mammal Order Chart (front & back). Either look up the information on your own or click through this PowerPoint presentation that gives the information in order. *Ignore that it says that humans are related to primates.*
  • PARTY ON DEC. 13: In 2 weeks everyone will get to “cash in” their tickets. We’ll have a class party that will include some review games & a gift exchange. Please bring a snack to share & a wrapped gift. (The gift does not have to be new, but it should be something a classmate would enjoy receiving – no junk. If it’s purchased, don’t spend more than $10.)

Looking for all my lessons?

© 2018 Shannon

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