Honolulu Zoo Society : Biomes

The Places Where Animals Live (Biomes Intro)

Topic Overview

Students will be introduced to a variety of biomes and landscapes around the world. The biome topic will cover different ecosystems (rainforest, desert, mountains, tundra, savanna), the habitats of different animals within those ecosystems (air, canopy, forest floor, lakes, oceans, underground), and how the environment impacts an animal's role within each system.


Begin the Lesson

An ecosystem is a community of interacting organisms and their environment-plants, other animals, geography, and climate. An ecosystem can be as vast as the Sahara desert or as small as the pond behind your school. Biomes are much larger than this and often encompass several different ecosystems. Scientists generally divide biomes into three categories: land, salt water (marine), and fresh water. In this WebLesson, students will explore the climate, geography, and flora and fauna of the major biomes.


Whole Class Introduction to the Lesson

You will need at least one computer with Internet connectivity and a projection device, a classroom with more than one computer, or access to a computer lab.  This introduction will take approximately 10 minutes to complete.

Scientists generally agree there are six types of terrestrial biomes and two aquatic biomes: rainforest, tundra, taiga (coniferous forest), desert, temperate forests, and grasslands, and marine and fresh water. Some of these are referred to by different names. Grasslands are also called prairies (North America), pampas (South America), steppes (Asia) or veldt (South Africa). Ask students to brainstorm a list of types of biomes. Record their responses and then ask them to group them into categories. Use the discussion questions below to guide this conversation. You may also want to include this Web site:


Sample Questions:

  • How are biomes classified?
  • Where do you think these biomes are located? (If you use the website map: What do students notice about the biome map?)
  • What are some subcategories of land, marine, and fresh water biomes?
  • What are some examples of each subcategory?
  • Group these examples into their biome category.
  • What biomes exist in your state, or near your home?
  • What do you think you need to know in order to understand a biome?

As part of the introduction, you may want to review some of the glossary terms in advance of students going online. At this point you can launch the WebLesson as whole-class activity using a projection device, or you can assign students to work individually or in teams in a computer lab.


WebLesson Sites
Biomes are regions of the world with similar climates, animals, and plants. Each biome has a unique environment--precipitation, temperature, and physical characteristics. The plants and animals that live in each biome are uniquely adapted for that environment. Take a fish out of water and it will not survive very long. Neither will an elephant that is relocated to the tippy tops of the Himalayan mountains.

The websites in this series will introduce you to Earth's biomes and allow you to explore the physical characteristics, weather, and inhabitants of each.
You are going on a trip around the world. As you travel from biome to biome, consider what is unique, beautiful, interesting, or odd about each. You will have a lot to share about your travels with friends, classmates, and family. It would be nice to be able to talk with them every day. Alas, that is not an option. There is not reliable internet in far-flung biomes so emails are not an option. Instead, you will have to rely on old-fashioned postcards to share your experiences.
Lesson Pages
What is it Like Where You Live?
Videos from the Wild Classroom
Rich Media
Hawaii\\\'s Forgotten Diversity
Rich Media
Conclusion & Project
Earth's biomes can be divided into three categories: terrestrial, salt water, and fresh water. To understand a biome, you must understand the climate, geography, plants, and animals of the region. Together, they create and support a web of life that is unique in all the world.
As you traveled to biomes around the world, you sent post cards to people back home. Write six postcards sharing six biomes. Share something about the climate, geography, flora, and fauna. Describe how these interact to create a unique biome.
abundant - existing in large numbers
aquifer - underground bed or layer of permeable rock, sediment, or soil that yields water
boreal - of the northern regions
chlorophyll - a green pignment in plants that helps the plant absorb light to get energy
conifer - a tree with needles or scalelike leaves, and cones
deciduous - shedding its leaves each year
dissipate - spread around
dominate - most important or most commonly found
dormant - alive but not growing
drought - lack of rain
emergents - coming into view, existence, or notice
encompass - includes
encompass - include
evolve - change over time
excess - extra
herbivore - an animal that feeds on plants
herps - reptiles and amphibians grouped together
homogeneous - alike
implement - put into action
inconspicuous - not easily noticed
infiltration - to move across or become a part of something
intermediary - in-between
intersperse - placed here and there
inundated - to cover with water, especially floodwaters
invertebrate - animals without a backbone
isolated - far away from others
migrate - move from one place to another
native - born in a specified place
predator - an animal that hunts and eats other animals
prone - likely to happen
regional - in an area
restrict - limit
shallow - not deep
sparse - infrequent
submergent plants - plants that grow completely underwater
symbiotic - a close association usually between two or more different organisms of different species
taiga - an often swampy boreal forest
tectonic - related to the Earth's crust
temperate - a climate or region with mild temperatures
torrent - strong or fast-moving liquid
tributary - a river or stream that flows into a larger body of water
tributary - a river or stream that flows into a larger river or stream
uniform - same; alike
vertical - up and down; the top is above the bottom