This Virtual Pathways focuses on plant and animal adaptation mechanisms related to food, cold or heat, movement, and protection from enemies. It aims at mobilizing students’ interest and raising questions about the concept of adaptation in general, but also about its role in the survival of plants and animals in their natural environments. Searching for information and answering their own question, using ICT and interactive educational material of the Museum of Natural History of Crete in the classroom.


Student Learning Objectives:

  • Understand a) the concept of adaptation in general and the adaptation of plants and animals in particular, b) that animals and plants develop characteristics and behaviors that help them live better in specific environments and leave offspring, and c) that these characteristics do not develop during the lifespan of an animal or a plant but over many generations, i.e. many years.
  • Learn how to approach a scientific issue, how to investigate, to observe, to come up to conclusions and solutions, etc. Generally, to gain a scientific way of thinking.
  • Regarding the use of new technologies, familiarize with the use of ICT through information retrieval, data collection and organization, manage and analyze them and draw conclusions.
  • Cooperation, teamwork, development of critical thinking, socialization, environmental awareness, and sensitiveness.
  • Cultivate higher forms of thinking, such as analysis, synthesis and comprehension of information.


Biology, adaptation, protection from enemies, habitat exploitation

Age Range

7-9 years old


School, Natural History Museum, Web


In school: 10 hours (6 pre-visit and 4 post-visit)

In the museum (virtually): 2 hours

Technical Requirements

Computer, printer, books, internet access

Additional Materials

  • Printed supportive material of NHMC
  • Construction materials (cardboard, paints)
  • Roll paper
  • Colours
  • Fabrics
  • Various useless materials


Connection with the curriculum

The content of the program “Plant and animal adaptations to their natural environment” is part of the course “Environmental Study” and specifically of the thematic units “Animals” (2nd grade of Primary School) and  “Plants and Animals of our place” (3rd grade of Primary school).

The program is fully compatible with the Interdisciplinary Unified Curriculum Framework for the course “Environmental Study” and fulfills the purpose of its teaching. It fully meets the requirements of the curriculum, as well as the individual learning objectives of the thematic units both of the 2nd grade of Primary School [“… to classify animal organisms based on their external characteristics: type of limbs (legs, feathers, fins), body cover (hairs, scales, feathers, shell). Correlate the external characteristics of animals with the needs of protection, movement and adaptation to their environment…”], as well as the 3rd grade [“… to understand that plants shape their characteristics according to the environmental conditions in which they grow. Identify and classify animals according to the environment in which they live (terrestrial, aquatic). Understand that animals (as well as plants) adapt to the environment in which they live in order to survive].

Finally, it could also support the initiative “Skills’ Lab” under the pillar: “ENVIRONMENT”.


This educational pathway follows an inquiry-based pedagogical approach, organised into 3 logical stages:

  1. Pre-Visit
  2. Visit
  3. Post-Visit

Teacher Support Materials

Useful resources, suitable for the age group of your students, are available at the “Teacher Support Materials” tab.

Guidance for Preparation

  • Communication with the school director and the teachers involved to the project.
  • Guidelines for the implementation.
  • Suggest resources (ppt, videos, web pages, printed material).

Pre-visit (5 hours)

Orientation information

Provoke curiosity

The teacher tries to mobilize the students’ interest in various ways. Some examples are:

  • Through a short story like:

“Last May, our class organized an excursion to Mount Yukhtas, outside the village of Archanes in Heraklion, Crete. Our goal was to collect plants and create a phytology book. We prepared our backpacks with everything that was necessary for our exploration: magazines, pruners, lenses, notebooks, pencils, hats, sunscreen, water, sandwiches and we started our trip with a lot of fun and eagerness. Our day turned out wonderfully, we gathered many beautiful plants, enjoyed the fresh mountain air, played, walked and returned with the scents of the aromatic plants of mt Yukhtas.

All the children enjoyed this trip to nature, although some complaints were not missing, especially from the children who had been pierced by thorns. Actually, the truth is that thorns were everywhere! Thorns on the leaves, thorns on the animals, thorny seeds that stuck to the socks, thorns, thorns … Imagine that one of our classmates stepped on a small thorny ball near a bush! Can you imagine what it was? A hedgehog, that had almost 6,000 thorns, as we learned later!

Our teacher, however, explained to us that we should not complain, since all these thorns that are annoying to us play a very important role in the life of plants and animals. What did our teacher mean by that?”

  • Through an activity, such as:

The teacher asks the students to make butterflies in order to find ways to “hide them in obvious places” in the classroom. The teacher asks the question:

  • How could this be done?

The students suggest various ways and the teacher writes some down on the board.

The purpose of this activity is to highlight the color adaptation of the butterflies to the colors of the classroom. It is desirable for students to suggest the construction of butterflies in the colors e.g. of the curtain, the wall, the table, etc. The teacher does not express his/her opinion and lets the students freely suggest their own ideas. He/She encourages all students to implement their ideas, even those that do not highlight the color adaptation.

Each student implements his idea and places his butterfly in the position he/she thinks is right in the classroom.

Then the students of the neighboring class come to search and find the “hidden” butterflies. The teacher asks questions such as:

  • Which butterflies were found easier?
  • Are there any butterflies that were not found or were found with difficulty? For what reason?
  • Why is the butterfly hiding this way? Is there anything to take advantage of this or is it done by chance?
  • Do you know other animals that hide in the same way? Do they do it for the same reason or are there other reasons?


Through the discussion, color emerges as a mechanism of defense of animals to protect themselves from their enemies or to chase their prey without been noticed.

After provoking children’s interest, the teacher continues to approach the concept of adaptation with the students, by creating a concept map on the board (or on a large piece of roll paper), as we will see below.

An indicative way to help students understand the meaning of adaptation would be to start with questions about themselves, such as:

  • On a very cold winter day would you wear a thin short-sleeved T-shirt to go to school? Why not; What would you wear and why?
  • What would you do if someone chased you?


Continue by asking students questions about the special features of animals and plants. Let the students express their thoughts and thus evaluate what they know about the topic, that is, evaluate their pre-existing knowledge:

  • How are animals protected in winter? What do they have to keep them warm?
  • How do fish manage to move quickly in the water?
  • How do birds fly?
  • Why are some plants not eaten by animals?
  • Why do some plants sting?


In this way students understand that animals and plants develop special features that help them live in their environment.

Some examples of features that animals and plants grow are (we do not list them to the students, we just encourage the children to state what they know about it. At the research stage, as well as during the virtual visit phase, they will learn many of the following characteristics):

  • The thick hair of some animals that protects them from the cold and the thick layer of fat under their skin, like a polar bear
  • The thorns of plants and animals that protect them from their enemies
  • The bad taste, scent or even toxicity of some plants, so that they are not eaten
  • The shape of the fish’s body that helps them glide easily in the water
  • The light skeleton of the birds that helps them fly
  • The different beaks of the birds that help them catch their food
  • The long and strong legs of many mammals that help them run fast, like the hare’s hind legs
  • The membranous legs of some birds, such as ducks, that help them swim more easily in the water


Afterwards, we ask questions about the behaviour of animals and plants:

  • What do animals do to escape from another animal or from a human?
  • How do animals react when something threatens them or when they are scared?
  • How do plants deal with extreme heat or extreme cold?
  • How can plants deal with their enemies? Can they run?


We help children reflect on what they have said, summarize it, and decide: How do animals develop behaviors to cope with difficult weather conditions, food shortages, or protection from their enemies?

Some examples of behaviors are:

  • Hibernation of bears due to food shortage
  • The migration of birds in winter due to cold and lack of food
  • Living in burrows of some desert animals to avoid excessive heat
  • The hedgehog coils when threatened
  • The estivation of snails due to lack of water


Building preexperiences

The ultimate goal of the above discussion is for students and teachers to construct a conceptual map of adaptation that analyses the individual components of the concept of adaptation of animals and plants. This map could be like the one shown in figure 1.

Figure 1: Conceptual map of adaptation


After the students understand the meaning of adaptation, the teacher instructs them to process the following 4 questions:

  • How do animals and plants cope with cold, heat and generally difficult weather conditions?
  • How do animals and plants protect themselves from their enemies or other animals?
  • What characteristics of animals help them catch their food?
  • What characteristics of animals or what behaviors help them live better in their environment?



Creating groups

Initially the students are divided into groups. Each group gets a worksheet that consists of three sections: “Hypothesis”, “Investigation” and “Verification”. The 4 questions above are repeated in each section of the worksheet and all groups process all 4 questions. The elaboration of the same questions continues during the research but also during the visit phase (virtually).


Each group collaborates and formulates hypotheses based on pre-existing knowledge for the above 4 questions and writes them in the “Hypothesis” section of the worksheet.


Once the group has written the hypotheses for each question, a little research is then conducted to come up with the most likely answers to each question. The research can be carried out in the room of ICT. Supportive material provided by NHMC: presentation, and selected web pages will be on the desktop of the computers. At the same time, the students can use their book, photos, or any other resource that the teacher thinks can be used by the students. The answers to each question will be written in the “Investigation” section.

Support or guidance available before the visit

For more info, please contact Dr Iasmi Stathi, Head of NHMC Education Lab here:

Visit (the minimal core of the learning experience) (2 hours)


Provoke curiosity: questions to ask, things to observe

After completing their research in the pre-visit phase and filling in the “hypothesis” and “investigation” sections of their worksheet, the students are ready for the virtual visit phase, where they will continue their investigation and finalize their quest.

The core experience

Watch the first video about the structural adaptations for feeding, locomotion, and protection from extreme temperatures (in Greek). During the video, try to answer questions that were not answered in the pre-visit phase, or make corrections on your previous answers. Write your final answers to the worksheet, in the “Investigation” session. You may also fill in the activity leaflet about food temperature and locomotion (in Greek).

Afterwards, you will investigate the adaptations that enhance the plants and animals’ protection from their enemies. Watch the second video (in Greek)  and try to answer questions that were not answered in the pre-visit phase or make corrections on your previous answers. Write your final answers to the worksheet, in the “Investigation” session.

Finally, complete the conceptual table using the cards in the following files:

  • Cards about adaptations for feeding, locomotion, and dealing with cold. For the feeding part, for each bird, there are photos of the bird, a close-up of its beak, the type of food, and a tool that resembles the function of the beak. For the dealing with cold part, there are photos of a glove, two hairy animals, and detail of the fur. Finally, for the locomotion part, there are photos of a bird, its foot and a tool that resembles the function of the foot. Cut the cards and put them on the right spot on the conceptual table.
  • Cards about the special features that some animals and plants have to help them protect themselves from their enemies. Cut the cards and put them on the right spot on the conceptual table.
  • Cards where for each animal there is a riddle to help you find its special feature which is its adaptation for protecting from enemies.


After completing your research in the visit phase and having completed the conceptual table, you are ready to check your worksheet again and proceed with the “verification” session.

Support or guidance available during the visit (optional)

Combine your observations with the info you may find in the Educational Material in the VP Repository (

Postvisit (3 hours)

Communicate explanation

At this stage, each group will complete the “Verification” section of the worksheet. For each question, the students will compare their assumptions with their answers through their research and the information they gathered from the activities during the visit phase. This way, each group will be able to verify which hypotheses and which answers were correct.

Then, each group will present the results of their work in the classroom. The groups are encouraged to discuss, judge and make a) self-evaluation for their work, b) well-meaning evaluation for the work of other groups, and c) decision on the elaboration of a collective project that will announce the results of their work (e.g., announcements in another class, parents, etc., book to be written by the groups, powerpoint presentation, creation of a play, theatrical play, etc.).

At this stage the teacher may also ask the students the following questions:

  • Why did we finally deal with the concept of adaptation?
  • Where do the knowledge about plants and animals’ adaptations benefit us in our daily lives?


These questions will enable students to reflect on what they have learned, to connect the knowledge they have acquired with their daily lives, to express themselves freely and finally to connect the knowledge with its usefulness.

The teacher encourages all the children to express their point of view.

Some thoughts are:

  • We learn about the animals and plants that live near us because that way we understand their behavior more and we respect them.
  • We revise misconceptions we may have about some animals and gain a better understanding of life around us.
  • We carry the meaning of adaptation into our own lives.
  • We ask students to report behaviors of people that help them live better. Some are: cooperation, teamwork, communication, sociability.
  • Even humans have adaptations that help them survive in their environment. Some examples are:
    • The primitive humans developed social behavior because, within the group, they were more protected from their enemies. Then they developed the language because they had to communicate with others around them, to be able to hunt bigger animals and eventually increase their population.
    • Humans have also developed features that help them live better in their environment. Two typical examples are the Eskimos at the poles and the Masai tribe in Central Africa. Eskimos are fat and short with a lot of fat in their skin and white skin. This ensures a small surface area and a large volume, features that help them not to lose the heat they need to withstand extreme low temperatures. The members of the Masai tribe are tall, thin with black skin, features that provide a large surface area and a small volume to dissipate heat and cool down in the high temperatures of Africa. Also, the black color on their skin protects them from sunburns.

Some examples of activities are presented below.

Make your own imaginary animal

Use the features you have learned in the program (the teacher with the children may repeat these features) to make your own imaginary animal.

  • Where does this animal live?
  • Why does it have these features?

You may implement this activity by individual or group painting, collage two-dimensional or three-dimensional, or theatrical play with useless objects that students will use to disguise themselves as imaginary animals and display similar behavior.



Hedgehog 1

We need brown or white clay that dries on its own.

Cut a piece of clay not too big. We shape it in our hands and make a ball. Then we give it a shape as if we have cut a pear in half (half a pear). Finally at the back we start to pinch the clay and create the thorns of the hedgehog. Let the clay dry and then paint it. We paint his face with ocher and the rest of his body brown. Preferably we use tempera or plastic paint. With a black marker we make the eyes and the nose. Our hedgehog is ready! (If we want, we can use more clay and make a bigger hedgehog).

Hedgehog 2

All the children collect their little pencils, instead of throwing them, in a basket for a long time. When they are gathered enough, we make a ball of clay as above and insert the pencils with the nose outwards.

Result: the whole class makes a hedgehog out of pencils. Nothing is wasted!

Little turtles

Design the body of the turtles from dark green cardboard. Break the walnut shells trying to make at least half of the shell whole. We stick them on the body. Finally, we take cardboard “sea” or “beach” or “grass” and place the turtles there!

Read the myths, stories and proverbs and create your own.

The myth of the lemon tree

It was once a beautiful tree. This tree was tufted and had very sweet and nice ruby ​​fruits. Anyone passing by would stop and admire it. The tree that saw the admiration in everyone’s eyes boasted and began to swagger. It slowly became a very arrogant and evil tree. It thought of never letting anyone cut its fruits again and it decided to take out big and poisonous thorns in its branches so that no one could approach it. Its fruits were rotten, and they were falling down, since it was holding them up until they were completely damaged.

Any passers-by who tried to cut these beautiful fruits were immediately pierced by its thorns and wounded by their poison. One day, the Goddess of Wisdom, Athena, passed by and sat next to the beautiful tree and looked at it. A little boy playing nearby wanted to cut some fruit to eat. The evil and arrogant tree immediately pulled out its thorns and pierced the child with force. The child was frightened when he saw his little hand bleeding, but also because of the pain he felt by the sting. When his hand started to swell, he started crying. The goddess Athena then transformed herself into an old lady and went to him. “Hush, my child!” she tells him. “Give me your hand to put an herbal ointment on and it will pass immediately.” Indeed, the drug acted immediately, the bleeding stopped, as well as the pain and swelling from the thorns’ sting went away. The child was relieved and made his way home. The old woman now went under the tree and started talking to it. Tree, let me cut a fruit, I’m hungry, she said. The tree began to laugh out loud and say, “I certainly would not let such an ugly old woman eat my beautiful fruit”. “And to whom do you give your fruit, my little tree?” the old woman asked again. “If I were beautiful, would you let me take one?”. “Of course not,” the arrogant tree replied boldly, “I do not make the fruits that I so much care for, so that you cut them.”

The old lady got very angry and hit down the stick she was holding. She immediately transformed herself into a beautiful girl who was no other than the Goddess Athena. “Arrogant tree, since today you will change fruits and from sweet, they will be sour and their color will be green like your evil and then they will turn yellow like your hatred”, she told the tree and disappeared. The tree after the curse began to transform, all its thorns fell, and its fruits turned green and when ripe they turned yellow.

One day, a villager passed by and seeing this strange tree, cut a fruit and tried it. As soon as he ate it, he became very sour and immediately he spitted it. The tree began to cry, it was inconsolable. Its petals began to wither and turn yellow from its grief. It came close to death and all the time it was saying how much it regretted that it was bad and did not let people eat its beautiful fruits. It has understood and regretted for his arrogance. The Goddess Athena saw that it repented and one morning she went to it and said: “because I saw that you have repented, I will fix your fruits a little. From now on you will release a very nice aroma that will stand out from the aromas of other trees. I will call you Lemonia (lemon tree), which, in the language of Gods, means “the one who regrets”, and you will become famous everywhere. All people will want your fruit. Their food will be tasted by your fruits”.

Indeed, a woman tasted a lemon for the first time experimentally, putting it in a soup because of its nice aroma, and she really liked the lemon juice. Those who ate from this soup went crazy with the taste. Since then, the use of the lemon tree was quickly known. All the people were cutting and buying the lemons. The fame of the tree with its beautiful tasteful fruits traveled all over the Earth, so they started planting it in the gardens and in the fields since it became necessary to people. The lemon tree was now happy that it finally became a useful and beloved tree for everyone.

Now you know how the lemon tree was made by the Goddess Athena and that’s why it has healing abilities. So do not be afraid to eat it! It is miraculous!

The bee and Zeus

The bee, which is the mother of candles, ascended to the gods, bringing honeycombs and honey. Pleased with the bee’s offer, Zeus ordered that they give her whatever she asked for. She replied, “Give your servant a sting to defend my labors and my prison.” Astonished by what she asked for, and since he loved humans, Zeus said to the bee: “It will not happen as you asked, but if someone comes to take your honey, and you want to defend yourself, then you use the sting. But you must know that if you hurt a person by stinging, you will die immediately, because your life is the sting”. The myth states that in prayers and supplications no one should ask for the evil of his enemies. (Myth by Aesop).



  • There is no rose without thorns
  • Whoever loves roses will endure the thorns.
  • A rose comes out of the thorn, and a thorn comes out of the rose.
  • He pulled the snake out of the hole… (succeeded in the difficulties).
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EN V Co-funded EN V Co-funded EN V Co-funded
EN V Co-funded
VIRTUAL PATHWAYS is a project funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union (REF: 2020-1-FI01-KA226-SCH-092545). The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.