• Audience
    Primary school
  • Learning stage
    Stage 2, Stage 3
  • Learning area
    English, Science
  • Type
    Learning journey, Teaching resources

On this page...

Learning journeys offer a scaffolded approach to exploring a topic both in the classroom and at the Museum. Follow our learning journey to deepen your students’ knowledge and understanding of animal adaptations and classification.

Animals adaptations are features or skills which help animals survive in their habitat. They could be physical features of an animal’s body or behavioural changes in how an individual animal or a society do things in their daily lives.

Classification is a way of grouping animals based on their common features. Understanding animal adaptations and classification is essential for scientists.

Through this learning journey, students will:

  • understand what an animal adaptation is, and the connection to habitats and survival.
  • have greater knowledge and understanding of the main animal groups and external features used to classify.
  • have the opportunity to closely observe and investigate animals and think critically about their features.

NSW syllabus outcomes: ST2-1WS-S, ST3-1WS-S, ST2-4LW-S, ST3-4LW-S.

Want to get the most out of an upcoming visit? We have some fantastic programs and resources to complement your students' learning journey.

  • Book into our Museum educator-led program Animal features and the environment. This program has been designed for students in Stage 2 and Stage 3.
  • Find out more about animal adaptations and classification with our virtual visit behind the scenes of the Palaeontology collection. You can learn from our experts, investigate fossils and witness some of the science done at the Australian Museum first-hand.
  • Explore our exhibitions in virtual reality via Google Expeditions by downloading the Google Expeditions app and searching for the Australian Museum.

Prepare your students

  • An Acknowledgement of Country is a statement that pays respect to the Traditional Custodians of the Country that you are learning or meeting on and recognises their ongoing relationship with Country. The Australian Museum respects and acknowledges the Gadigal people as the Custodians of the land on which the Museum stands.

    Which First Nations Country or Nation was your school built upon? If you are unsure contact a local First Nations organisation to find out. You might like to start with the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group.

    Ask your students to write an Acknowledgement of Country for your school. To get them started, read more about why an Acknowledgement of Country is important and how to write one in this ABC article.

  • The animals around us
    What animals live in your home, backyard, school yard, or local park?
    What animals have you seen in zoos, aquariums, or farms?
    Which of the animals seen are native to Australia and what groups do they belong to and why?

    Consider sending your students out into the playground and sectioning off an area – observe the animals within the space and investigate their main features. What animal groups do they belong to?

  • Experience features that we (humans) use to help us survive
    Discuss what humans and other animals need to survive in their habitat (air, shelter, water, food, space). Explore which of the students' own external features help them survive. Demonstrate the importance of their thumbs by asking students to untie their shoelaces, then ask them to re-tie them without using their thumbs. Discuss as a whole class the challenges experienced by the students when they don't have the use of their thumbs.

    What are some benefits to having thumbs?

  • What are the external features (adaptations) that help animals survive?
    What are the needs and wants of animals?
    What external features help fulfil these needs or wants?

    In groups or as a whole class, use post-it notes to share ideas about external features on a variety of animals. Use different coloured post-it notes to represent varieties such as limbs (legs, wings, flippers), coverings (fur, feathers, scales, shell), feet, shape, mouth and nose.

    Describe any features which help the animals move, keep warm, attack or protect, find and eat food, or reproduce.

    Do the animals have any unusual behaviours?
    What features do the animals have in common?
    How can the animals be grouped?

At the Museum

  • Visit and explore our Wild Planet exhibition which showcases animals from Australia and around the world, or our Surviving Australia exhibition which showcases Australian animals from a variety of habitats.

    Read our tips on how to use our exhibitions.

    Wild Planet

  • Book into our Museum educator-led program Animal features and the environment. This program has been designed for students in Stage 2 and Stage 3.

    Primary school excursion
    Students from Petersham Public School visit Wild Planet. Image: Anna Kučera
    © Australian Museum

  • Use our Wild Planet exhibition insights, Surviving Australia exhibition insights, conversation starters or a mixture of all of them. These activities are designed to encourage your students to connect, share and reflect on this topic through the specimens on display.

    We recommend that your students work in small groups, however, it is up to you how you implement and manage the activities.

Back in the classroom

  • Reflection
    As a class, talk about and describe the animals seen during the excursion:

    What groups do they belong to?
    What external features help their survival?

    To help ignite a reflection, look at any photos taken during the excursion, and re-visit the exhibitions online via Google's Arts and Culture website: Wild Planet and Surviving Australia.

    Show and tell
    Set up a short show and tell for your class. You could ask students to present on the animals investigated during the exhibition discovery or ask them to research and present on their favourite animal and the adaptations it uses to survive. If your students took photos while at the Museum, ask them to create a postcard about what they liked best during the excursion and send it to a friend or family member.

  • Ask students to create a bio-poem based on an animal they saw at the Australian Museum.

    Create, draw, or describe your own mystical creature ensuring it has physical and behavioural adaptations suitable to an Australian habitat. Find habitat illustrations and guiding questions on our classroom activity.

    Create a ‘biodiversity wall’ using Museum photographs, drawings, labelled animals, poems, and use natural materials to inspire the surrounding environments.

  • Set up your own exhibition
    Students can set up their own exhibition about animals and their habitats, adaptations, or another identified theme. Use our classroom activity about how to create an exhibition in your classroom or school to guide you.

    Learn more about frogs using the Australian Museum's Frog ID classroom resources.

    Museum research
    Watch some videos about research conducted by the Australian Museum scientists here and then do your own fieldwork of some animals which live near your school, thinking about how you can look after them (conduct a survey to explore the biodiversity, think about the animals’ survival needs and what you can do to help, present the results at your school’s assembly).