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Painting of animals by Arlene Braithwaite

Desert Animal Olympics

In this week’s book, One Day in the Desert by Jean Craighead George, we met tons of cool desert animals: roadrunner, peccaries, tarantulas, headstand beetles, desert tortoises, honey pot ants, elf owls, foxes, and even a mountain lion. These animals have all made adaptations so they’re fit to live in such a dry climate. But they’re amazing in other ways too!

Use the animal facts here to learn about your favorite desert animals and how they’ve adapted to their climate. When you’ve picked some favorite animals and their adaptations, design an Olympic activity to compete with your friends and compare yourself to your favorite animal! Would you survive in the desert? 

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Kangaroo rats are tiny (their bodies are about 4-5 inches long), but they can jump up to 9 feet! How tall is your body? How far can you jump?
  • Baby scorpions crawl on their mother’s back and stay there until they molt (7-21 days). Have a scorpion relay race using empty gloves or stuffed animals as your baby scorpions. Be careful not to drop your “babies”!
  • Hummingbirds can stick their tongues out 13 times per second to reach nectar. How long does it take you to stick your tongue out 13 times?
  • Leafcutter ants can lift about 50 times their body weight, and male rhinoceros beetles (the largest beetle in North America) can lift 850 times their body weight! How much do you weigh? How much would you have to lift to be as strong as the leafcutter ant or the rhinoceros beetle? How much can you lift?
  • Headstand beetles do a head stand to mix chemicals and shoot them at predators. Can you do a headstand? How long can you hold it?

When you’re finished with your Olympic events, print one of these Desert Animal Olympics gold medals for each of your friends on card stock. Cut them out and attach a ribbon so you can wear them around your necks, and be sure to write some of your awesome results and favorite adaptations on the back

This lesson is adapted from Exploring Adaptations: Animal Olympics from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Conservation Education & Science Department. They have lots of great resources for kids and teachers. Be sure to check them out!

(See how many desert animals you can find in this awesome painting at the top by artist Arlene Braithwaite !)

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