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It’s summer, and the weather is really warming up in your area this week. Your air conditioner goes out, so your family decides to go to the mountains for the weekend until it's repaired. Why go to the mountains? What difference will that make? Well, Mountains are at a higher elevation. Elevation is how high a place is above sea level. The weather is cooler in the summer and much colder in the winters in higher elevations.

As you drive from your home into the mountains, you start to notice different kinds of trees. At first you notice deciduous trees; ones that drop their leaves in the fall. Soon you smell the fresh odor of pine trees which are higher up. You notice all kinds of animals and insects too. Are they different than the ones at home?


Plant Adaptations

Here are some examples of how some plants adapt in forests, wetlands, and deserts:

  • Forests: During the summer, deciduous trees use their broad leaves to capture energy from the sun; they store it in the roots for next year. The leaves start to decay and fall in autumn, so the tree can go dormant (not actively growing) in the winter when there is less sunlight. The tree again sprouts leaves when the weather starts to warm up in the spring.
  • Wetlands: Plants in wetlands survive where there is an abundance of water, but not much oxygen. They have long tubes, like straws, that carry oxygen floating on top of the water. These are called reeds.
  • Deserts: Cactus plants grow in lower elevation deserts with very little rainfall to keep them alive. The thick waxy stems store water and the leaves are thin sharp spines. These spines cut down on the water that evaporates from the plant in the high temperatures as well as keep animals from eating them.


Adapt an Animal

Below are some pictures of a few of the animals you will find at different elevations in Utah. Choose at least two and write a paragraph explaining how each animal adapts to the elevation and conditions where it lives.


Elk Wild Turkey Rattlesnake
Moth Lizard Cutthroat Trout


Write the story!

  • Write a two paragraph story about an environment close to where you live.
  • Make sure to include the names of the different plants that are important to the environment as well as the animals which live there.
  • Include information about how the plants and animals interact.
  • Hint: Remember which are producers and consumers.

Download the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader , and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 4th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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