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Animals in My Neighborhood

Kindergarten students exploring the creatures that live in their neighborhood
Diorama of skunk
Matt Sacco demonstrating how soft skunk pelt is
Kindergarten students exploring the creatures that live in their neighborhood
Image of skunk, captured by motion sensor camera

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School(s): Beverly J. Martin Elementary
Grade(s): Kindergarten - Nancy Braun and Andrea Sands
Subject(s): Science, Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Art

Essential Questions

Is an urban neighborhood a better or worse environment for an animal?
How can we be stewards of our city for the benefit of people and wildlife? 

Case Study At A Glance

Kindergarteners begin this study by investigating the needs of living things, and growing understanding of the many ways animals meet them. Students then work to understand their own neighborhood, searching for evidence of urban wildlife, and investigating how our local wildlife survives and adapts to their local habitats. Students gather information, just as scientists do, by questioning, investigating, reading, writing, and collecting data about wild animals who live near their school. They study maps, conduct field work, learn how technology can help data collection, and work with local experts at the Cayuga Nature Center. Students choose a local animal to study in depth. This study culminates in students serving as ambassadors of learning for visitors to the school playground and gardens, on behalf of other species living in and around the city. As stewards of the squirrels, raccoons, crows, skunks, robins, bats, and other creatures who share our urban habitat, students communicate background information about these animals, the adaptations they have for life in the city, and how humans can safely co-exist with them. Learning for a purpose, their work becomes part of the school playground, building opportunities for the school community to learn about the local environment. Student work is also exhibited at the Cayuga Nature Center. Books, equipment, and supplies for this case study, along with time and have been generously funded by a Teacher Grant from the Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI.)

Standards Addressed/Long Term Learning Targets

  • K-LS1-1 Use observations to describe patterns of what plants/animals/humans need to survive
  • K-ESS3-3. Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on living organisms and non-living things in the local environment.
  • K-ESS3-1.-- Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants or animals (including humans) and the places they live.
Social Studies
  • K.4b Children can be responsible members of a family or classroom and can perform important duties to promote the safety and general welfare of the group.
  • K.6 -- Maps and globes are representations of Earth’s surface that are used to locate and better understand places and regions.
  • K.7 -- People and communities are affected by and adapt to their physical environment.
Numerous Literacy and 21st Century Standards in support of communicating.

Matt Sacco, Cayuga Nature Center  

Anchor Texts
Field Guide to Urban Wildlife: Common Animals of Cities & Suburbs; How They Adapt and Thrive by Julie Feinstein
Backyard Habitats by Bobbie Kalman
Link to Video