Desert Plants and Adaptations

Teacher of Lesson: Teresa Moore
Grade Level: 2/3




  1. Show pictures of plants on screen. Give them all a page (paper passer). Read descriptions of each on pg 55 in scholastic. Have them try to identify the plant name I describe.
  2. "Now that we are familiar with a few desert plant names, lets find out how they can survive in such a hot and dry climate. Does anyone remember the word we use for a special characteristic of something for survival?" (adaptation) "The first activity we have will tell us something about how the cactus keeps water inside."
  3. One person from the group get a brown paper towel and piece of wax paper for each group member. Another come up and get two ice cubes for each person. (I put a piece of tape on each desk as I speak and circulate) Everyone take an ice cube and wrap it in a paper towel. Put it aside on your desk. Take the other ice cube and wrap it in wax paper. You may wish to tape both wrappers on your cube to keep them on. Set these aside. We will start another experiment as the ice melts.
  4. Have one member from each group come gather the needed materials. (sponge, tray, bowl of water, rulers) Have the paper passer hand out work pages. Have a different person in each group soak the sponge with water, let the water drip off and place on the tray. Have the remaining group members measure the sponge according to the work page guidelines. (width, length, thickness) When the first two questions are completed for activity A, the original member who got the materials, will put the tray by the window. Someone else will walk to the sink and empty the bowl of water.
  5. Look at the ice. Which one soaked up the water better? Which one kept more water inside? If you were a plant in the desert, which would you rather have for skin? Why? How would waxy stems be helpful? Answer the questions on your page.
  6. Have one member place materials in the sink. Another should wipe up any water spills. The paper passer, meanwhile, hands everyone an 8 x 11 inch piece of paper. Everyone hold the paper so it is wider than it is tall. Lay it down in front of you that way. Start folding it like a fan until you get to the end. Glue one end to the other. Show then how to hold it so the column is narrow. This represents a cactus that is low on its water supply. Show me how it would look when it has a lot of water inside. (What part of the cactus lets it expand? (pleats) Do the pleats help the cactus survive in the desert? So these pleats are another what? What is the word for this special characteristic? (adaptation)
  7. Who can tell me something they learned from this unit time today? Discuss. Place all materials in your unit folder.


  1. Watch the group. Were there many participants? Have them follow along and number each plant as we go along. Check their pages for numbering.
  2. Check sheets for accurate completion. Did they mention all adaptations covered in the follow up discussion?
  3. On the sheets, were they able to make connections (through questions) between the materials and real plants?

Follow up:

In a few days, look at the sponges again. When they dry up, remeasure them. Compare the two findings and answer the remaining questions on the work page.


Sponge Activity:

End: Wax and Paper Activity:

Desert Accordion:

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