Did you know that elephants are the world’s largest land animals? Or that you can differentiate between species of elephants by looking at their ears?
Unfortunately, around 90 percent of African elephants have been wiped out in the last century from ivory trading, leaving the species endangered. Hunting and habitat loss have left most species of elephants endangered or critically endangered. Learning about them is the first step toward supporting groups that save the elephants.
Introducing thematic learning into the school week is a great way to inspire children to learn through interest-led activities, but it also helps them make connections and transfer knowledge across the content area.
Learn more about these amazing animals with these free activities and ideas.
KWL Graphic Organizer
A KWL chart is a great way to start a thematic unit. This type of graphic organizer captures children’s interest in a new topic by activating prior knowledge and helping them to learn how to organize new information. Display the chart and continually add to the information as children learn new facts about elephants.
K: What I already know
W: What I would like to know
L: What I learned
Fun Elephant Facts
Start your elephant unit with these fun and interesting facts!
An elephant’s trunk is the most sensitive organ found in any mammal—and has around 15,000 muscle units!
Elephants communicate a few different ways, one of which is seismic signals (vibrations) that they detect through their bones.
Calves can stand up within 20 minutes of being born and can walk within an hour!
Elephants are known for their excellent memory, which can be attributed to their temporal lobe being larger and denser than a human’s.
Elephants are herbivores, meaning they eat plants and plant-based food.
An elephant’s habitat varies depending on the part of the world it lives in. African elephants populate wetlands, savannas, forests, grasslands, and deserts, whereas Asian elephants live mostly in forests and grasslands.
Elephants are very social, and typically form female-led groups. They play together often by wrestling and playing chase.
Create a Diorama and Research Report Dioramas are a fun DIY way to re-create an animal’s habitat. Using a shoebox for the base, and then construction paper, markers, scissors, glue, and other art materials for the interior, you can create a miniature model of an elephant’s home. Encourage children to get creative without using store-bought materials.
Research your elephant species and its diet, habitat, and endangerment status.
Collect plants, rocks, and other outdoor materials
Create your own elephant figurines using playdough or clay
Paint the inside of your shoebox to match your elephant’s habitat.
Have children write a research report on the type of elephant they chose. Some details to include are diet, habitat, behavior, dangers, and current population.
Researching Solutions to Save the Elephants Research solutions and organizations that are helping elephants. Find organizations that dedicate themselves to saving elephants and see what you can learn from their websites. Researching solutions, donating time or money, and spreading awareness are just a few ways to start helping elephants. This is a great opportunity to show children how their actions and decisions can make a difference.
Free Elephant Activities
These free printable activities provide hands-on activities and reading units to help children learn about elephants.
Paper Tube Elephant Art (Grades K–3)
For this project, you’ll need paper towel rolls, gray construction paper, and gray markers or colored pencils.
Cover the paper tube with gray paper.
Color the elephant patterns gray.
Cut out the patterns and glue them to the paper tube to create your paper tube elephant!
Elephant Shape Book (Grades K–2) Read all about elephants with these book recommendations and then conduct writing exercises of your own! This activity provides a few different prompts for different writing levels and a shape-book elephant craft to present the writing!
This learning unit provides reading, writing, and other learning components all about elephants and how they live. The nonfiction-based unit also provides reading practice, followed by reading comprehension, to teach students real-life concepts and lessons.
Have fun learning about elephants, doing crafts, and learning about how we can save this endangered species!
About the Author
Christine Wooler has experience working with children as a youth soccer coach and summer camp counselor. She is currently studying English Literature and journalism in college. She enjoys exploring educational topics that help students have fun while learning.