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Science Matters Features: "Zoo-vival - What Every Animal Needs to Survive"

Masai giraffe
A Masai giraffe at the Virginia Zoo reaches for leaves with her long tongue. (Photo: Virginia Zoo in Norfolk)

Home Learning | Science Matters Features

Join Sarah Peterson, Education Coordinator at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, as she explores the five things all animals need to survive: food, water, space, shelter, and oxygen. Take a closer look at some amazing animals such as giraffes, crocodiles, snakes, prairie dogs, and seahorses to learn how they are adapted to survive in their diverse environments. Plus, learn how the dedicated staff at the Zoo use their skills to make sure the animals that live there have everything they need to survive and more. Developed for students in grades 3-6.

Produced by VPM in partnership with the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk.

Home to over 150 species of animals, the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk has been part of the Hampton Roads community for over 100 years. As an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited institution, the Zoo is dedicated to the ideals of animal welfare, conservation, and education, and is committed to engaging our community in taking action to save the world’s wildlife and their ecosystems.

Educational resources:


Virginia Science Standards of Learning (SOLs):

3. 4 The student will investigate and understand that adaptations allow organisms to satisfy life needs and respond to the environment. Key ideas include:
a) populations may adapt over time;
b) adaptations may be behavioral or physical.

3.5 The student will investigate and understand that aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems support a diversity of organisms. Key ideas include:
a) ecosystems are made of living and nonliving components of the environment; and
b) relationships exist among organisms in an ecosystem.

4.3 The student will investigate and understand that organisms, including humans, interact with one another and with the nonliving components in the ecosystem. Key ideas include:
a) interrelationships exist in populations, communities, and ecosystems;
c) changes in an organism's niche and habitat may occur at various stages in its life cycle. 

4.8 The student will investigate and understand that Virginia has important natural resources. Key resources include:
a) watersheds and water, and
b) plants and animals.

6.8 The student will investigate and understand that land and water have roles in watershed systems. Key ideas include:
d) natural processes, human activities, and biotic and abiotic factors influence the health of a watershed system.

6.9 The student will investigate and understand that humans impact the environment and individuals can influence public policy decisions related to energy and the environment. Key ideas include:
a) natural resources are important to protect and maintain.

LS.5 The student will investigate and understand that biotic and abiotic factors affect an ecosystem. Key ideas include:
c) relationships exist among producers, consumers, and decomposers.

LS.6 The student will investigate and understand that populations in a biological community interact and are interdependent. Key ideas include:
a) relationships exist between predators and prey and these relationships are modeled in food webs;
b) the availability and use of resources may lead to competition and cooperation;
d) the niche of each organism supports survival.

LS.7 The student will investigate and understand that adaptations support an organism’s survival in an ecosystem. Key ideas include:
b) physical and behavioral characteristics enable organisms to survive within a specific ecosystem.

Meet the Creator

Sarah Peterson and a sloth at the Virginia ZooSarah Peterson is the Visitor Engagement Coordinator in the Education department at the Virginia Zoo. Generally, she works at developing engaging, fun, and educational activities for on-grounds guests and supervises the teen program, the Conservation Youth Team.  She also loves inspiring everyone to do their part to protect the environment! Her favorite animals are what she calls “big, gray things:” rhinos, tortoises, and Komodo dragons.

Photo: Sarah and KC, a two-toed sloth, at the Virginia Zoo (Photo by: Virginia Zoo in Norfolk)