A Lesson Plan on the Basic Needs of Animals: For Grades 1-2

Helping students understand characteristics of animals is a major portion of the first grade science curriculum. With these animal basic needs lesson plans, your first graders will understand the needs of pets and other animals. You can extend the lesson to include the interdependence of plants and animals, as well.


  • Students will identify the four basic needs of animals.
  • Students will explain why a habitat might or might not be appropriate for a particular animal.
  • Students will recognize the need to maintain clean air and water for animal survival.

Learning Activities–Group Learning

Begin by showing students the video clip, “Wild Animals Are Everywhere,” (see resources). As they watch, ask them to identify the different animals they see and where those animals live.

After the video, list the animals and habitats seen; review the video again, if necessary, stopping to write down the children’s observations.

Ask students what each animal or habitat has in common with the others. Use questions to lead them to the idea that all of the animals need a place to live (shelter), food, water and air – If they do not mention air, don’t worry, as another step in the lesson will help them understand that need. You can extend your lesson by using an animal habitat lesson plan on an another day.

Continue the connection by asking who has pets at home. Ask what their pets need to live.

Show students the video clip, “Take a Breath". Point out the need for clean air for all animals, including humans, to breathe.

Discuss that wild animals can usually find shelter, food, water and air for themselves, but that they sometimes need help when people move into their natural habitats and make changes to them. Discuss how the children could help with the coexistence of animals and people in the same environments (not wasting water, not littering, etc.).

Learning Activities–Individual Practice and Application

Provide students with books or handouts about different animals and their natural habitats. Allow each student to select one animal to read about. After their research, ask students to write a friendly letter during a lesson, to their animal, and invite the animal to visit the student. In the letter, the student should describe how he or she will provide the four basic needs of the animal during the visit. An alternate to this would be to have the student decline an invitation to visit the animal overnight, explaining how the habitat of the animal would fail to meet the basic needs of the child.

Ask students to bring in half-gallon or gallon milk cartons, while you provide ½-inch to 3/4-inch dowels, cut to 4-inch lengths. Help students carefully cut an opening in the carton for a bird to enter and to attach a dowel as a perch. Ask students what other materials they could provide to place inside the birdhouse to make it comfortable for local or seasonal bird visitors. Help them to hang the houses near your classroom windows.

Collect pinecones for each student. Mix peanut butter and birdseed thoroughly. Allow students to use plastic forks or knives and their fingers to coat the pinecones with the mixture. Add a cord or ribbon to the top and help students hang their feeders in trees or other areas around the school.

Encourage students to write journal entries about the animals they see each day, describing the ways the animals’ basic needs for shelter, food, air and water are met. Also encourage them to record ways in which the needs might be threatened and how the students can help.


The letters and journal entries by the students will indicate whether they understand the four basic needs of animals. An additional option is to ask the students to write a short story about an animal; tell the students that they need to be sure that their story tells how the animal will get all four of the basic needs.

Enrichment and Extension

Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar with the students and discuss what the caterpillar ate in the story. Ask students if there is an animal that might eat the caterpillar and another animal that might eat that first one. Continue to discuss the possible chain until you arrive at humans.

Discuss other potential food chain connections. Reinforce the connection for the students by asking them to paste the plants and animals in the chain on separate construction paper strips, which are then connected, in order, to make paper chains.

With animal basic needs lesson plans, your students will understand what each animal must have in order to survive and thrive and how they can help to preserve animal habitats for the future.


Wild Animals Are Everywhere video – https://www.sesamestreet.org/video_player/-/pgpv/videoplayer/0/f08d2e18-cfc8-4eea-b84c-22c250177c9c/elmo_s_world_animals

Take A Breath video – at https://www.sesamestreet.org/video_player/-/pgpv/videoplayer/0/d90ddb21-154a-11dd-8ea8-a3d2ac25b65b/take_a_breath.