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Mammals Lesson


I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.

Photo credit: http://www.colli239.fts.educ.msu.edu/

Photo credit: http://www.colli239.fts.educ.msu.edu/

This is part 5 of a 5 part hands-on unit on Animals and Zoology. Perform a play about mammals, experience how blubber keeps marine mammals warm, sniff out your "baby," examine animal skulls, dissect an owl pellet and piece together a rodent skeleton, and more! My lessons are geared toward 3rd-4th grade level children and their siblings. These are lessons I created to do with a weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 11 children between the ages of 0-13. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, family, camp, after school program, or co-op!

LIVE! with Chordata and Mammalia production

LIVE! with Chordata and Mammalia production

Review & Introduction to Mammals

1. Stretch. Pray. Review from previous animal classification lessons.

2. Read Genesis 1:24-31. Review the 3 divisions God made regarding land animals and ask for an example of each. Emphasize that people are not animals.

3. Read "Mammals: Hairy, Milk-Making Animals" by Laura Purdie Salas or "Animals Born Alive and Well" by Ruth Heller. Skip the pages on prehistoric mammals and humans as mammals. Review basic traits of mammals: have hair, breathe air, & use milk for baby care.

More Great Picture Book Options

These books would also make great options as read aloud books to introduce mammals.

4. (Video Record This) Act out "LIVE! with Chordata and Mammalia." You can add in moms as the hosts if you don't have enough children to cover those positions. If you have fewer children, then you can cut out some of the animals and combine lines. (See below for script)

TEACHER/PARENT 1: YOU WILL NEED: 10 scripts (each with parts highlighted), 9 animal hats (see below for how to make these), & talk show host costume (like a jacket and a toy microphone)

Interview with a bat

Interview with a bat

LIVE! with Chordata and Mammalia Script

CHORDATA: Welcome! Welcome, studio audience and viewers at home to LIVE! with Chordata and Mammalia, the only show on the Animal Channel to explore the life of mammals. I am your host Chordata.

MAMMALIA: And I'm Mammalia. Now, I know all you amphibians out there have enjoyed the reruns of "Bill Nye the Salamander Guy" and we've received a lot of fan mail from reptiles raving about the show "Hanging with Mr. Tortoise", but today we're going to get up close and personal with a group of real live mammals. The topic for our show is: "Mammals--How are they alike? How are they different?" Let me introduce you to our guests. First, from Atlanta, Georgia, we have Fido the Dog.

CHORDATA: Tell us a little about yourself, Fido.

DOG (Dog Mask): Sure, Chordata. I'm a canine, a member of the same family as wolves, coyotes and foxes. Of course, I'm not a wild canine. I don't live in a pack the way wolves do. I'm a domestic dog. I live with humans--they're my pack. They feed me every day.

MAMMALIA: Yes, indeed. Mammals have good appetites. They have to eat often because they're endotherms, or warm-blooded.

CHORDATA: Now to our next guest, from the grasslands and forests of Asia--Tiger. Can't help noticing your marvelous fur coat, Tiger.

TIGER (Tiger Mask): Thanks, Chordata. I try to keep my coat nice. Fur is important to me. In fact, hair is important to us mammals because it keeps us warm. We're the only animals with hair. Birds don't have it. Reptiles don't have it. Amphibians don't have it. Fish don't have it. Let's hear it for hair! (Grrrrowl)

(Mammals applaud.)

BLUE WHALE (Blue Whale Mask): Well, I only have a few little whiskers, but I'll tell you what's really important to mammals - air! If you lived in my habitat, you wouldn't take it for granted. We all need air, don't we? We all breathe with our lungs.

BAT (Bat Mask): That's true. When I'm hanging upside down in the cave with my gang all day, we're all breathing air. But what I'd like to talk about is...baby care.

ELEPHANT (Elephant Mask): Don't get me started! I know I'm the biggest land mammal on Earth, but do you know I carried my baby for almost two years before it was born? And then I took care of that 250 pound baby, nursed him with my milk for another two years. My baby stays with me, and I protect him and his brother and sister. Raising mammal babies is hard work.

BLUE WHALE: A 250-pound baby? Honey, my baby was 16,000 pounds and 23 feet long! She drank 160 gallons of milk a day!

MAMMALIA: Do all mammals nurse their babies? Let's have a show of hands.

(Mammals all raise their hands.)

CHIMPANZEE (Chimpanzee Mask): The name mammals comes from the name of the glands that make milk. They're called mammary glands. What I'd like to know is, are there any mammals that lay eggs? I mean, mammals are born not hatched, right?

KANGAROO (Kangaroo Mask): Good question, mate! In Australia, where I come from, live the only mammals that lay eggs--platypus and echidna. They also nurse their young, though. The rest of the 4,000 kinds of mammals are born, not hatched.

FLYING SQUIRREL: Four thousand kinds of mammals. But I can tell you a way we're different from each other. Everybody smile.

(All mammals smile and show their teeth.)

FLYING SQUIRREL (Flying Squirrel Option 1 or Option 2): See? We all have different kinds of teeth. Tiger has those big sharp ones. Don't take this personally, Tiger, but I'm glad you don't live in my habitat.

TIGER: No offense taken. I need these sharp teeth. I'm a hunter, a predator, you know. A carnivore. Yum, meat!

BAT: Look at Elephant's teeth. They're really flat.

ELEPHANT: I'm an herbivore. I need flat teeth to grind up grass, branches and fruit.

DOG: I understand carnivores like myself need sharp teeth for biting and herbivores (or vegetarians) like Elephant need flat teeth for grinding, but what do you eat, Blue Whale. I've never seen teeth like yours.

BLUE WHALE: Well, I don't really have teeth. This row of plates in my mouth is called baleen. It works like a strainer. Water and tiny shrimp come in. I spit the water out through my baleen and sift out the shrimp. Then I lick the shrimp off my baleen. It's really a very tidy way to eat.

CHORDATA: Mole, you've been awfully quiet. Do you have anything to share about how we are alike and how we are different?

MOLE (Mole Mask): I can't really see everybody's teeth or fur because my eyesight is pretty bad. Where I live, underground, it's always dark. I dig tunnels with my claws and feel around with my nose and whiskers.

BLUE WHALE: So your habitat is underground. How very interesting. My habitat is the ocean.

ELEPHANT: My neighborhood is flat and grassy. Not a bit like the ocean or underground.

FLYING SQUIRREL: My habitat is up in the trees.

CHIMPANZEE: Even though we're all mammals, it's no wonder God didn't create us to all look alike. It's because we each have to survive in a different habitat.

MAMMALIA: I am sorry but we are going to have to wrap up this fascinating discussion, but just to recap. Mammals have hair, breathe air and do lots of baby care.

ALL MAMMALS (chant together three times): We have hair, breathe air, do lots of baby care!

CHORDATA: (While the animals are chanting): That's all the time we have. We hope you've enjoyed our show!

(Adapted from Baltimore Curriculum, Classification of Animals)



Animal Headbands for LIVE! with Chordata and Mammalia

For each character, print of the animal using the below link or print off your own picture. Staple a strip of construction paper (15x1) to form a circle. Staple one of each of the below pictures to each one. The children will put these on their heads.

5. Review main traits of mammals: Endothermic, fur, milk, & usually live young.



Mammal Senses: Sensitive Sniffers

6. What are our 5 senses? In most mammals, smell is the most important sense. They use their noses to detect predators or prey, to distinguish between family and non-family-members, to find mates, and to recognize their territories and those of other mammals. It's kind of like an animal's way of writing, "I was here" on everything it passes. Smells can linger for a long time, so animals can "smell" the history of what has gone on before. Deep inside a mammal's nose is an area called the olfactory region which has lots of "smelling" nerves. When people or mammal breathe air through their noses, odors in the air "turn on" these special smelling nerves. Also, many mother mammals learn to recognize their babies by smell.

7. Discuss how bats (and other animals) find their babies by smell. Ahead of time spray/dab 15 pairs of cotton balls with various scents (perfumes, air fresheners, extracts like vanilla or almond) and place each pair in a small plastic bag (snack or sandwich size). Give each child 1 cotton ball and place the other cotton ball spread out on the table. There should be 15 cotton balls on the table. These cotton balls are their "babies." Instruct the children to sniff their cotton ball and then find their "baby" (the matching scent) by smelling the cotton balls on the table.

TEACHER/PARENT 2: YOU WILL NEED: 15 pairs of cotton balls (30 in total) each sprayed with a different scent & 15 small plastic bags



Carnivores and Herbivores

8. Review predator and prey and carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, and insectivores.

9. Beef jerky vs. Lettuce. Hand each child a piece of beef jerky and tell them to slowly chew it. Pay close attention to the teeth you used to chew it. Describe to me how it felt to chew it. (Chewy.) Slowly chew one piece of lettuce. Pay close attention to the teeth you used to chew it. Describe how it felt to chew the lettuce compared to the beef jerky. (Easy to chew.) What could we call an animal that eats only meat? (Carnivore) What would you call an animal that eats only plants? (Herbivore). What do we call an animal that eats plants and animals? (Omnivores). What do we call animals that eat only insects? (Insectivores.) Eat another piece of beef jerky. Pay close attention to the teeth you used to chew it. What part of your teeth did you use to chew it? The sharp teeth in the front. Look at the person sitting next to you's teeth. Look at their sharp teeth. Now show the other person your sharp teeth. What kind of teeth are these called? (Canines.) Generally, what kinds of animals have prominent sharp teeth? (Carnivores) Eat another piece of lettuce. Pay close attention to the teeth you used to chew it. What part of your teeth did you use to chew it? The flat teeth in the back. Look at the person sitting next to you's teeth. Look at their flat teeth in the back of their mouths. Now show the other person your flat teeth. What kind of teeth are these called? (Molars) Plant eaters. Generally, what kinds of animals have flat teeth? (Herbivores).

TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED: 1 small piece of beef jerky per child and 1 small piece of lettuce per child

Comparing skulls of carnivores and herbivores

Comparing skulls of carnivores and herbivores

Talking Skulls: Carnivores and Herbivores

10. Compare skulls of carnivores and herbivores. You can get ideas on what to ask children from activity 4 on this webpage. (Check with your local forestry or game and wildlife departments or with some you know who hunts.) If you can't get real ones, simply show pictures of them from a book like "Eyewitness: Mammal" by Steve Parker.

TEACHER/PARENT 4: YOU WILL NEED: a skull of a carnivore & an herbivore or pictures of them



Orders of Mammals

11. Ask children how they think scientists organize animals. What traits do they focus on. QUICKLY discuss what traits scientists use to organize animals into orders and families. The focus of this is not so that children can memorize the order names. It is simply to show them what traits are used to organize mammals. Show pictures of the animals from books as you mention their order. If you have extra time, you can find out some really neat information about these various animals by reading "Exploring Creation with Zoology: Part 3" by Fullbright.

TEACHER/PARENT 1: YOU WILL NEED: deer antler (optional) & a small cup of milk per child

  • Order Perissodactyla (odd-toed hoofed): Families: Equidae (horses, donkeys, zebras), Tapirs, & Rhinoceroses.
  • Order Artiodactyl (even-toed hoofed -- further divided into those that ruminate, or digest their food in four-chamber stomachs and chew cuds) Do ruminate: Giraffes. Cervidae (deer, moose, reindeer, elk),

    ----- Deer antler: Deer lose their antlers each winter. In the spring new ones start to grow. By fall the velvety skin that covers the antlers is gone and the antlers are tall and sharp. The male fights other males, using his huge bony, branched antlers. Each year antler growth is larger than the previous year. Few shed antlers are found in the woods, because they are eaten by small animals or crumble from exposure to the weather.

    -----Horns vs. antlers: horns = slow-growing & permanent & covered with hard material. Antlers = fast-growing bones grown & shed each year & often branched

    (Optional) YOU WILL NEED: deer antler

    ----- and Bovidae (cattle, bison, yaks, waterbucks, wildebeest, gazelles, springboks, sheep, musk oxen, goats).

    ---- Milk. Show cow/Bovidae. Drink milk.

    YOU WILL NEED: 12 small cups of milk

    And those that do not ruminate: Pigs, Peccaries, Hippopotamuses, Camels and llamas.

  • Order Marsupialia (pouched animals): Rat opossums, true opossums, marsupial moles, numbats, bandicoots, koalas, wombats, and kangaroos & wallabies. I mentioned how the nipple swells so that a baby joey can't pop off its mom until it's jaw develops.
  • Order Monotremata (egg-laying mammals): Echidnas/spiny anteaters & platypuses. I mentioned how the platypus's milk "sweats" from its fur and also how it's bill detects electrical currents from animals.
  • Order Proboscidea (elephants): Large enough to have an order all to itself is Family Elephantidae.
  • Order Edentata (toothless): Armadillos, sloths, and hairy anteaters
  • Order Lagomorpha (hares and rabbits)
  • Order Insectivora (insect-eaters): moles, shrews, and hedgehogs
  • Order Carnivora (meat-eaters): 2 suborders of these toe-footed creatures. They include the Canidae (wolves, dogs, jackals, foxes), Ursidae (bears, giant pandas), Raccoons, and weasels, skunks, & otters, all part of one family that is characterized by long snouts and unretractable claws; and Felidae (cats, lions, cheetahs, leopards) Hyenas, and Mongooses, all of which have retractable claws.


Primates & Opposable Thumbs

  • Order Primates (monkeys): Divided by the how long of a snout they have: lemurs, aye-ayes, tarsiers, marmosets, baboons, gibbons, gorillas, chimpanzees, & orangutans.

12. (If you have extra time) Discuss opposable thumbs. Tape each child's thumbs to their hands. Divide them in to 2 teams. Have each team race to a chair, tie a piece if yarn to the chair, and then run back. The next person will untie the string. Continue to do this until everyone has had a turn. Discuss why God gave primates, humans, and some other animals opposable thumbs. (This activity is from "Amazing Mammals" from Ranger Rick's NatureScope series.)

YOU WILL NEED: tape and 2 pieces of yarn (about 3 feet each)

Rodents & Owl Pellets

13. Read "About Rodents" by Cathryn Sill.



  • The Order Rodentia includes gnawing mammals like beavers, Family Sciuridae (chipmunks, squirrels, marmots), Family Cricetidae (field mice, lemmings, muskrats, hamsters, gerbils), & Family Geomyidae (gophers)

14. (Optional) Dissect owl pellets and assemble the bones of the rodent. Give each family an owl pellet. Pull them apart and try to identify the different types of bones and try to identify the rodent. If desired, glue them to a piece of paper in the form of a rodent. (We didn't glue them to paper.)

TEACHER/PARENT 2: YOU WILL NEED: 4 disposable plates, tweezers, 4 sets of worksheets from this webpage, magnifying glasses, & 4 owl pellets

(*You can buy owl pellets off e-bay for about $2/each.)




15. (If you have extra time) Briefly discuss the Order Chiroptera (bats), the only mammals that can fly. Mention echolocation (also used by dolphins) and demonstrate using an air cannon. Let children demonstrate how airwaves move by letting them use an air cannon to blow out an candle. You can find easy directions for how to make an air cannon and explain what is happening at think link from physicscentral.com.

TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED: 2 air cannons (made using an oatmeal container, tape, and a plastic bag -- Follow these instructions.), 2 candles, play-dough (to hold the candle on the table), & a way to light the candle (lighter or matches)



Marine Mammals

16. Show pictures of marine mammals. Compare a broom (baleen) to the carnivore's and herbivore's skulls' teeth.

  • Order Cetacea (whales and porpoises): Two suborders: the toothed whales: sperm whales, narwhals, belugas, porpoises, dolphins, & orcas/killer whales. And baleen whales: gray whales, right whales, fin-backed whales, & hump-backed whales.
  • Order Pinnipedia (Fin-footed: seals and walruses)
  • Order Sirenia (dugongs and manatees)

TEACHER/PARENT 1: YOU WILL NEED: a broom (as clean as possible)

17. Sing & motion whale parts : Whales: ("Farmer in the Dell" tune) adapted from "Amazing Mammals Part 2" by NatureScope.

Whale flukes move up and down,
Whale flukes move up and down,
Thar she blows, the whale-oh,
Whale flukes move up and down.

Whale flippers help it steer (continue)
Whale blubber keeps it warm (continue)
The blowhole helps it breathe (continue)

Movements to go with each verse:
a. hands side by side with palms up on backside (where tail would be) moving up and down
b. arms straight, slightly up from sides & bend body
c. wrap arms across chest and give yourself a hug
d. fist on top of head. Exhale loudly after each verse

Marine Mammals & Blubber

Marine Mammals & Blubber

Marine Mammals & Blubber and Review

18. Blubber: Have each child put on disposable gloves. Have them dip one hand in petroleum jelly or vegetable shortening and coat one glove with a thick layer. Have them remove the other disposable glove. Have them then place both hands in a bowl of ice water and compare how each hand feels. This shows how blubber insulates ocean mammals and keeps them warm.

TEACHER/PARENT 4: YOU WILL NEED: 1 extra small or small disposable glove per child, 2 large containers or petroleum jelly or 1 large container of vegetable shortening, & 3-4 large bowls of ice water


Mammal Olympics & Review

19. (If you are not limited by time) Mention some of the "record breakers" in the mammal class. Have children see how they compare.

SPEED: Mention that the Cheetah is the fastest land mammal, 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. Have the children race 25 yards. Tell them that a cheetah could have run that in less than 1 second!JUMPING: Tell the children that a red kangaroo is able to jump more than 40 feet in one bound. The can also jump more than 10 feet high. This allows them to escape from predators. See how many hops it takes for the children to jump 40 feet. Remind them that the red kangaroo could have done it in one hop!BROAD JUMP: Say that 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. Measure out 30 feet to show the children how far a cougar could have jumped.FLAPPING: Mention that little brown bats can flap their wings up to 120 times in 10 seconds in order to catch fast-flying insects. Have the children stretch out their arms and flap as many times as they can for 10 seconds. Remind them that the little brown bat could have flapped 120 times in that amount of time.LENGTH: Ask the children if they can name the largest animal in the world. It's the blue whale. The can be more than more than 100 feet long, weighing more than 150 tons. Amazingly enough, they are baleen whales so they eat tiny shrimp-like animals called krill. Measure out 100 feet. If you have a large group of children, measure out 100 feet and have the children lie down head-to-toe along a line to see how many of them it takes to match the length of a blue whale. If you have a smaller group, simply walk 100 feet to see how far it is.(This activity is from "Amazing Mammals" from Ranger Rick's NatureScope series.)

YOU WILL NEED: a way to keep time, chalk for marking out distances, & measuring tape

20. (If you are not limited by time) Play "Vertebrate Clue Game" from "Amazing Mammals: Part 1" from NatureScope to review traits of each of the different phyla and classes of animals OR play Pictionary with various phyla and orders of animals.

21. Sing 1st verse of Mammal song Lyrical Life Science Volume 2 and review the songs from previous lessons.

Animal Classification Lapbook

Animal Classification Lapbook

Lapbook Homework

Below are the lapbook pages you can print out and have your child complete to review the information we learned at co-op. Children will be able to show off their completed lapbooks at our co-op dinner. Feel free to add more or less that the below links.

General Traits of Mammals

Lapbooks on specific animals

Great Books on Specific Animals

There are so many excellent books on individual animals. I could probably list at least 100. To limit the number, I'll just feature our favorite book series that were enjoyed by all my children (ages 2-9).

Mammals Overview (This does falsely include humans as mammals.)


Examine pond water and yeast cells under a microscope, test out various insect mouths, dissect a fish, create an egg model, perform a play about mammals, present on a specific animal phylum or genius, and more during this fun 5 part hands-on unit study on animal classification!

  • Taxonomy, Animal Classification, and Invertebrates Lesson - This is part 1 of a 5 part hands-on unit study on zoology. Examine pond water and yeast cells under a microscope, dissect an oyster, sing “The Six Kingdom Song,” eat 5 of the kingdoms on a supreme pizza, and more!
  • Insects and Spiders Lesson - This is part 2 of a 5 part hands-on unit on zoology. Test out various insect mouth types, examine insect parts under a microscope, make and eat edible ants, test out spider webs for vibration, and more!
  • Amphibians, Reptiles, and Fish (Cold-blooded Vertebrates) Lesson - This is part 3 of a 5 part hands-on unit study on Zoology. Peel your “skin” like a reptile, dissect a fish, make origami jumping frogs, compare amphibian and reptile eggs by feeling tapioca and grapes, and more!
  • Birds Lesson - This is part 4 of a 5 part hands-on unit on zoology. Create an egg model, make edible nests, test out various types of beaks, compare bird bones with mammal bones, examine various feathers, dissect a gizzard, sing a song about bird traits, and more!
  • Mammals Lesson - This is part 5 of a 5 part hands-on unit on zoology. Perform a play about mammals, experience how blubber keeps marine mammals warm, sniff out your “baby,” examine animal skulls, dissect an owl pellet and piece together a rodent skeleton, and more!
  • Zoology Presentations and Field Trip Ideas This describes the culminating activity for the 5 part hands-on unit on zoology. The children each presented on an assigned phylum, class, or order of animals. They also sang some of the animal classification songs and enjoyed an animal-themed meal. (Recipes are included.) Also included are the field trips we attended during this unit.
Konos Volume I

Konos Volume I

Konos Curriculum

Would you like to teach this way every day?

Konos Curriculum

I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful curriculum and was created by moms with active boys!

Konos Home School Mentor

If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!

© 2011 Shannon

Which Is Your Favorite Mammal and Why? - Or just let me know you dropped by! I love getting feedback from you!

dwnovacek on November 15, 2011:

Awesome lens - both beautiful and educational. Angel Blessed!

lasertek lm on May 16, 2011:

Very informative and great looking lens. Awesome job!

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