All living things have adapted to surviving successfully within their environments. They have adapted to changes in climate and habitat, as well as the other species that live around them. Some even work with other species to benefit themselves.
Human impact has caused a lot of environmental change to happen very quickly. Evolution and adaptation are processes that take a long time to occur, and much of the change that we are creating within habitats is too fast for animals and plants to adapt to.
We will explore how humans have impacted different habitats in several ways and the effect that this has had on wildlife. We will also look at how we can help wildlife where we are, with small refuges that suit their needs.
These activities support learning in the following areas:
Identifying that most living things live in habitats to which they are suited.
Different habitats provide for the basic needs of different kinds of animals and plants, and how they depend on each other.
Animals found in less familiar habitats.
Recognise that environments can change and that this can sometimes pose dangers to living things.
How animals and plants are adapted to suit their environment in different ways and that adaptation may lead to evolution.
Habitat board game:
Explore the consequences of habitat change together in a fun and engaging way. Discover the impact we can have on the natural world, on species survival, and how we can manage change in a way that limits the loss of biodiversity. With differentiated versions for ages 7-11:
Task: Play this game with your family. Did you notice a pattern between the needs of an animal and how they responded to changes in their environment?
Add to the adventure by following an Orangutan named Takum from rainforest to plantation as they look for the creatures that live in each habitat. You’ll see changes, and the reasons for them, as well as discover what scientists are doing to help:
Video 1: Primary Rainforest
Video 2: A Changing Landscape
Video 3: The Next Generation
Living things within habitats have evolved and adapted through time together. They have discovered how best to live side-by-side within their environment, and will often rely on each other for resources such as food.
Our Food Chains resource can help you to explore this further.
The relationships of animals with one another and their environment is often called ‘ecology’. Discover how living things rely on each other by playing Ecology Jenga!
Make your own: Ecology Jenga!
Try our colourful adaptation of the traditional game of Jenga to explore the consequences of removing living things from a habitat. Tackle topics such as food chains, ecology, diets, and human impact in a fun and engaging way by building your own tower. Download our step-by-step guide by clicking the button below:
Task: Play a game of Jenga. Talk about whether the tower gets stronger, or weaker the more pieces you take away.
Prefer not to paint on your Jenga tower? Draw the animals onto stickers or labels and place them onto the blocks instead for a quick use at home solution.
How can Museum collections show us change?
Museum collections are a snapshot of information, paused at a particular moment in time. This means that the animals at the Museum of Zoology can tell us a lot about what the world was like when they were collected.
Let’s take a trip to the 19th century, when Leonard Jenyns, an important naturalist, lived in Cambridgeshire. He spent a lot of time making observations and collecting specimens from the local area. A large amount of the material he collected is now stored at the Museum of Zoology and offers a fascinating snapshot of Cambridge 200 years ago.
By studying his collection, we can gain information on how habitats and species have changed over the last few hundred years and guide future conservation efforts.
Task: Think about what may have changed in the fenland environment in the last 200 years? Have humans done anything to change the environment?
Take a trip in an Insect Time Machine
Travel back in time to 1829 and help Leonard Jenyns collect Insects around Cambridgeshire. Compare these to the species you can find in Cambridge today and learn how habitats have changed.
This game will help you to explore the consequences of habitat change on insects with your young person and is accompanied by teaching notes to help lead them through the content. The game can be played individually or together. Click the image to begin!
Task: Travel back in time with Leonard Jenyns. Find insects in the past and present and compare your findings using this collection drawer.
Observe real-life change in your garden or green space
As the human population continues to grow, we are having more and more of an impact on the natural world. Almost all of the planet has been impacted by us in some way, which means there is less and less space for wildlife to live undisturbed.
Therefore, we need to make sure that we can live side by side with wildlife. Conserving nature where we live will also mean that we can continue to reap the benefits of the natural services (like pollinating) they provide, as well as the positive impacts green spaces can have on our wellbeing.
Try creating an insect-friendly space using our insect hotel guide:
Or build a log-pile using the Wildlife Trusts guide here.
Task: Observe the creatures that begin to make the space home. Do the mini-beasts have different environment needs?
Record the species you see over time using the below identification sheet or table (click images to download):
To read more about the Jenyns collections project, or explore the British Insect collection using our collections explorer, click the links below: