How Can Animals Use their Senses to Communicate?

How Can Animals Use their Senses to Communicate?

How Can Animals Use their Senses to Communicate? is part of Smithsonian Science for the Classroom, a brand new curriculum series by the Smithsonian Science Education Center. It is aligned to a group of grade 4 standards. It has a focus on life science with a secondary focus on physical science and engineering. In this module, students:

  • Analyze structures that support animals’ senses and investigate how light travels when they see an object
  • Investigate how information is processed in the brain and analyze data to determine how memories can affect behaviors 
  • Carry out an investigation into whether fiddler crabs wave more often when there are other crabs present and analyze the system in terms of sender, signal, and receiver
  • Design and test a method for sending information about a picture using 1s and 0s and short and long flashes of light
  • Construct an argument based on testing with models for which firefly flash patterns are the most effective for communicating to find a mate

Below are digital resources that support teaching of this module.

Lesson 1: Now You See It

Animal Communication
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This video of animals communicating introduces the phenomenon for the module.

Using Reflectors in Photography
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These images show similar photos taken with and without use of reflectors.

Lesson 2: The Eyes Have It

Human Eye 
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This image can be used in lieu of looking at another student’s eyes.

Lesson 3: Survival Sense

Survival Sense Argumentation
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This file has images and information about the star-nosed mole and tarsier.

Lesson 4: Can You Believe Your Eyes?

Human Nervous System
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This file shows the human nervous system and visual system.

Lesson 5: Live and Learn

Firebug Study
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This file compares the human and bird nervous systems and introduces the animals in the firebug study.

Lesson 6: Quick Study

Warning Coloration
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This file shows a variety of animals with red-orange and black warning coloration. 

Lesson 8: Do the Wave

Fiddler Crabs Waving
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This video shows wild and captive fiddler crab males waving their oversized claws to communicate.

Lesson 9: Conferring with the Flowers

Defining Communication
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This file shows a possible definition for communication. 

Plant Structures and Pollination
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This file shows the basics of plant structures and the process of pollination.

Lesson 10: I Can’t Hear You!

Traffic Noise
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This file shows noisy traffic (only the audio is needed for the lesson). 

Nightingale Song
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This video shows a nightingale singing. 

Nightingale Research 
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This file introduces the nightingale song study. 

Lesson 11: What’s the Code?

What’s the Code?
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This file shows digital images and introduces the problem for the lesson.

Color Picture
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This file shows a color picture that students can develop a code for.

Lesson 12: Messaging Faster

Lifeguard Communication Problem
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This file introduces the lifeguard communication problem. 

Telegraph SOS
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This video shows a telegraph key messaging SOS in Morse code. 

Lesson 13: Firefly Flashes Part 1

Flashing Fireflies
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This video shows fireflies flashing using bioluminescence and introduces students to the phenomenon for the Science Challenge. 

Lesson 14: Firefly Flashes Part 2

Sample Flash Pattern
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This file shows an example of a visual model for a simplified firefly flash pattern.

Firefly Communication Testing
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This file shows the procedure for testing the flash patterns with physical models. 

Lesson 15: Firefly Flashes Part 3

Lights at Night
This link has information about sources of light pollution and how to prevent it. 

Kit Tips & Tricks