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Desert Discovery Programs

PreK & K: A Walk in the Desert

Let's take an imaginary walk through the desert to discover hidden animals and plants. While meeting some of these fascinating desert dwellers, students will identify the special adaptations each has for survival in the desert environment.

Additional Resources

Program Objectives:

Through the examination of live animals, artifacts and interactive demonstrations students will:

Arizona Academic Standards Correlation:

Science Standards:
Strand 1: Inquiry Process
Concept 3: Analysis and Conclusions
Strand 4: Life Science
Concept 1: Characteristics of Organisms
Concept 4: Diversity, Adaptation and Behavior

Grade 1: Saguaro Tales

Discover the desert plants and animals that interact with the saguaro and meet the animals that depend upon this giant for shelter and food. Learn how the saguaro is adapted to life in the Sonoran Desert. Investigate pollination and seed dispersal to discover how the saguaro and other plants depend upon animals, and vice versa. Students will meet live animals that help the saguaro or are helped by the saguaro.

Program Objectives:

Through the examination of live animals, artifacts and interactive demonstrations students will:

Arizona Academic Standards Correlation:

Science Standards:
Strand 4: Life Science
Concept 1: Characteristics of Organisms
Concept 2: Life Cycles
Concept 3: Organisms and Environments
Populations of Organisms in an Ecosystem
Concept 4: Diversity, Adaptation and Behavior
Strand 6: Earth and Space Science
Concept 3: Changes in the Earth and Sky

Grade 2: Amazing Arthropods

Introduce students to the incredible diversity of Sonoran Desert insects, spiders, and other fascinating arthropods. Examine live animals and preserved specimens to learn about anatomy and adaptations. Determine the important roles of various arthropods in desert food chains, pollination, and our ecosystem.

Program Objectives:

Through the examination of live animals, artifacts and interactive demonstrations students will:

Arizona Academic Standards Correlation:

Science Standards:
Strand 3: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Concept 1: Changes in Environments
Strand 4: Life Science
Concept 1: Characteristics of Organisms
Concept 2: Life Cycles
Concept 3: Organisms and Environments
Populations of Organisms in an Ecosystem
Concept 4: Diversity, Adaptation and Behavior

Grades 3 & 4: Adaptation Station or Sonoran Supermarket

Adaptation Station

Desert plants and animals display a fascinating variety of adaptations that help them thrive here. Examine desert plants’ structures to reveal how they deal with the temperature extremes and aridity of this environment. Then meet some live desert animals and identify their secrets to success as desert dwellers.

Teacher Resources

Program Objectives:

Through the examination of desert plants, live animals, and preserved specimens, students will:

This Program is 60 minutes long and offered only at the Museum.

Arizona Academic Standards Correlation:

Science Standards:
Strand 1. Inquiry Process
Concept 1: Observations, Questions, and Hypotheses
Concept 2: Scientific Testing (Investigating and Modeling)
Concept 3: Analysis and Conclusions
Concept 4: Communication
Strand 4: Life Science
Concept 1: Structure and Function in Living Systems
Concept 3: Organisms and Environments
Populations of Organisms in an Ecosystem
Interdependence of Organisms
Concept 4: Diversity, Adaptation and Behavior
Biological Evolution

Sonoran Supermarket

Today, basic survival for most of us means regular trips to the supermarket. But imagine living in the Sonoran Desert five hundred years ago. Everything you needed came from right here. This program explores local resources that native peoples of the Sonoran Desert - Tohono O'odham, Yaqui, and Seri - have traditionally used for food, medicines, fibers, and more. Students will experiment with ethnobotanical materials to make their own cordage and discover foods and tools they might find in their own backyards.
(No live animals used in this program)

Additional Resources

Program Objectives:

Through the examination of ethnobotanical materials, artifacts and interactive demonstrations students will:

Arizona Academic Standards Correlation:

Science Standards:
Strand 3: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Concept 1: Changes in Environments
Strand 4: Life Science
Concept 3: Organisms and Environments
Populations of Organisms in an Ecosystem
Social Studies Standards:
Strand 1: American History
Concept 2: Early Civilizations
Concept 5: Westward Expansion
Concept 10: Contemporary U.S.
Strand 4: Geography
Concept 1: The World in Spatial Terms
Concept 2: Places and Regions
Concept 4: Human Systems
Concept 5: Environment and Society

Grade 5: Hunters and Hunted

Meet the carnivores of the desert and their prey. Study the skulls and body structures of these animals. Determine how predators are successful hunters, and how their prey is often able to escape!

Additional Resources

Program Objectives:

Through the examination of live animals, artifacts and interactive demonstrations students will:

Arizona Academic Standards Correlation:

Science Standards:
Strand 3: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Concept 1: Changes in Environments
Strand 4: Life Science
Concept 1: Characteristics of Organisms
Concept 3: Organisms and Environments
Populations of Organisms in an Ecosystem
Concept 4: Diversity, Adaptation and Behavior

Grades 5-12: Diversity of Life

Ask most people to describe a “desert” and you’ll likely hear words like dry, hot, and dusty. The Sonoran Desert defies stereotypes with a great variety of plants, animals and ecosystems. Learn why our desert is so diverse and why diversity is good for us, then meet a few of the animals that live in our diverse naturehood!

Program Objectives

Students will be able to:

Arizona Academic Standards Correlation

Arizona Science Standards, 2018:

Grade 5 —
5.L3U1.9: Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about patterns between the offspring of plants, and the offspring of animals (including humans); construct an explanation of how genetic information is passed from one generation to the next.
5.L4U3.11: Obtain, evaluate, and communicate evidence about how natural and human-caused changes to habitats or climate can impact populations.
5.L4U3.11: Obtain, evaluate, and communicate evidence about how natural and human-caused changes to habitats or climate can impact populations.
Grade 6 —
6.L2U3.11: Use evidence to construct an argument regarding the impact of human activities on the environment and how they positively and negatively affect the competition for energy and resources in ecosystems.
6.L2U3.12: Engage in argument from evidence to support a claim about the factors that cause species to change and how humans can impact those factors.
6.L2U1.13: Develop and use models to demonstrate the interdependence of organisms and their environment including biotic and abiotic factors.
Grade 7 —
None in 2018
Grade 8 —
8.L3U1.9: Construct an explanation of how genetic variations occur in offspring through the inheritance of traits or through mutations. (if we do the natural selection game as a pre-visit activity)
8.L4U1.11: Develop and use a model to explain how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.
8.L4U1.12: Gather and communicate evidence on how the process of natural selection provides an explanation of how new species can evolve.
High School —
Essential HS.L2U3.18: Obtain, evaluate, and communicate about the positive and negative ethical, social, economic, and political implications of human activity on the biodiversity of an ecosystem. (with post visit activity, think about having students argue the bennies of biodiversity and what we lose from its loss.)
Plus HS+B.L4U1.2: Engage in argument from evidence that changes in environmental conditions or human interventions may change species diversity in an ecosystem.

Registration Information & Form

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