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North American Desert

Life Science - Middle School

 
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Sheri Amsel The Sonoran Desert, in southern California, Arizona, and northwestern Mexico, is a large sandy plain with bleak mountains. Branches of the Colorado River run through it allowing many trees, cacti and shrubs to grow. In Arizona, it is dotted with giant saguaro and barrel cactus. Many animals thrive in the dry landscape. After a rain, the hillsides are bright with the yellow blossoms of palo verde, flowering cacti, yucca and brittlebrush, making the desert seem more like a garden than a desert. Despite the heat and lack of water, many animals thrive in a desert habitat. The tiny kit fox (1) uses its huge ears to cool off, while its sharp hearing helps it hunt for insects, rodents and other small animals. Roadrunners (2) run up to 15 mph eating anything they can catch and beating large prey, like snakes, to death on a rock. A rattlesnake (3) smells the air by flicking its tongue in and out. As pit vipers, they have heat-sensing spots on the sides of their head to find warm-blooded prey. The scorpion (4) eats insects and other invertebrates, like spiders and centipedes, by crushing them with their large pincers and stinging them with their tail stinger which is full of paralyzing venom. Gambel’s quail (5) scratch the ground under cacti looking for seeds or cactus fruit and run along the ground in small coveys. The desert tortoise (6) may be the oldest animal in the desert, roaming the dry landscape eating tough shrubs, grasses and cacti. Kangaroo rats (7) hide by blending into the sandy landscape. When they must escape, they jump fast, in unpredictable ways, while kicking sand behind to blind predators. The desert jackrabbit (8) eats juicy cactus avoiding the sharp spines. Their long ears pick up the slightest sound of danger while helping them keep cool by allowing body heat to escape through their ears’ many blood vessels. A hole in a saguaro cactus helps an elf owl (9) keep cool during the day, while at night it flies out in search of insects to eat. Chuckwallas (10) are often seen basking in the sun as they need to reach at least 100°F (37°C) to be comfortable. When threatened, they hide in tight rock crevices and gulp air to wedge themselves in tightly. The redtailed hawk (11) uses its excellent vision to scan the desert for small rodents to eat, while the turkey vulture (12) uses its amazing sense of smell to find dead animals (carrion) on which to feed. North American Desert 8 4 11 2 6 10 7 1 5 9 12 3
Sheri Amsel 8 4 11 2 6 10 7 1 5 9 12 3 94-4013 The tiny ____________ ____________ (1) uses its huge ears to cool off, while its sharp hearing helps it hunt for insects, rodents and other small animals. ______________________________ (2) run up to 15 mph eating anything they can catch and beating large prey, like snakes, to death on a rock. A ___________________________ (3) smells the air by flicking its tongue in and out. The _____________________________ (4) eats insects and other invertebrates, crushing them with their large pincers and stinging them with their tail stinger which is full of paralyzing venom. Gambel’s _____________________ (5) scratch the ground under cacti looking for seeds or cactus fruit and run along the ground in small coveys. The desert __________________________ (6) may be the oldest animal in the desert, roaming the dry landscape eating tough shrubs, grasses and cacti. _____________________________ _________________ (7) hide by blending into the sandy landscape. When they must escape, they jump fast in unpredictable ways while kicking sand behind to blind predators. The desert _____________________________ (8) eats juicy cactus avoiding the sharp spines. Their long ears pick up the slightest sound of danger while helping them keep cool by allowing body heat to escape through their ears’ many blood vessels. A hole in a saguaro cactus helps an elf ___________ (9) keep cool during the day, while at night it flies out in search of insects to eat. Chuckwallas (10) are often seen basking in the sun. The redtailed __________________ (11) uses its excellent vision to scan the desert for small rodents to eat, while the turkey _________________________ (12) uses its amazing sense of smell to find dead animals (carrion) on which to feed. North American Desert
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