Habitats & Adaptations

In Habitats and Adaptations students will explore how animals are perfectly suited to living in their environments. Through a hands-on activity pupils will explore the adaptations of different species and will discover how closely-related species differ due to the habitat they've evolved to live in. They will be introduced to the impact of humans on these environments, as well as how they have the power to help mitigate these impacts. 

A pygmy hippo at ZSL London Zoo

Key Stage:  KS2 (7-11 year olds)

Duration:  45 min

Capacity: 35 students


National Curriculum links:

KS2 Science

Working scientifically

  • Asking relevant questions and using different types of scientific enquiries to answer them

  • Reporting on findings from enquiries, including oral and written explanations

  • Using straightforward scientific evidence to answer questions or to support their findings

Living Things and their Habitats

  • Identify that most living things live in habitats to which they are suited and describe how different habitats provide for the basic needs of different kinds of animals and plants, and how they depend on each other

  • Identify and name a variety of plants and animals in their habitats, including microhabitats

  • Recognise that environments can change and that this can sometimes pose dangers to living things

Evolution and Inheritance

  • Recognise that living things produce offspring of the same kind, but normally offspring vary and are not identical to their parents

  • Identify how animals and plants are adapted to suit their environment in different ways and that adaptation may lead to evolution

KS2 English

Spoken Language; Reading – word reading; comprehension;

Writing – Transcription; vocabulary


Intended learning outcomes:

Lower KS2

Pupils will be able to:

  • Name and describe, using appropriate language, a variety of animal habitats from across the world and some of the animals that live there.

  • Describe, using appropriate language, how animal adaptations are suited to the environment that they are found.

  • Outline some of the positive and negative impact humans can have on habitats

  • Feel empowered that that they are part of positive action to protect animals in the wild

Upper KS2

Pupils will be able to:

  • Describe, using appropriate language, how animal adaptations are suited to the environment that they are found.

  • Recognise that although all the members of a species share the same adaptations, there will still be variation between them.

  • Describe how this variation may, over time, enable animals becoming adapted to a new environment

  • Name this process as evolution

Many objects from the natural world used in this session are loaned to us by HM Revenue and Customs.

Please be aware that though we aim to use a live animal in this session, we do not guarantee that they will be present – animals can fall ill or be unwilling to be handled and their welfare is ZSL’s first priority. 


For this session

Before your visit:

While at the Zoo:

  • Visit these endangered animals at Whipsnade Zoo:


Link to session


Amur Tiger

Forest – habitat

Strong claws to drag food up trees - adaptation


Asian Elephant

Forest – habitat

Elephant (EDGE species) ZSL conservation in Thailand



Savannah – habitat

Speed agility – muscle movement of cheetahs.  http://www.zsl.org/conservation/regions/africa/tanzania-carnivore-conservation


Pygmy hippos

Lakes and Forests - habitat

Pygmy hippos are part of our EDGE programme and have pioneered conservation in Liberia http://www.zsl.org/conservation/regions/africa/pygmy-hippo-conservation



After your visit:

  • Create your own species! Research and collate the top ten most fascinating adaptations in the natural world. Now create your own animal to fit perfectly into the habitat of your choice.  Keep in mind:
    • How the animal will hunt/scavenge/graze for food
    • How the animal will evade predators
    • How the animal will camouflage in to the habitat
    • How will the animal reproduce – does it lay eggs or give birth to live young?