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Elephants - Keystone Species Resources

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

An earlier blog post highlighted the DisneyNature movie Elephant and it's accompanying Educator's Guide. You can read that blog post HERE. This blog post provides some book, lesson plan and web site resources for you to use when teaching about elephants as a keystone species in the grasslands ecosystem.


Grades: Preschool - K

Summary: A prekindergarten-level introduction to elephants, covering their growth process, behaviors, the lands they call home, and such defining physical features as their trunks

Review: This is a great series known for large photos and one sentence text. Important vocabulary words are highlighted and defined. Very engaging for the young learners and a good resource for ELL students as well. I love that additional resources are linked at the end of the book, both web sites and more advanced books.

Grades: K - 2

Summary: A basic exploration of the appearance, behavior, and habitat of elephants, Earth's biggest land animals. Also included is a story from folklore explaining why elephants trunks are so long.

Review: This is a great book for emerging readers with large photos on one page and a couple of sentence of simple text on the accompanying page. Domain specific words are highlighted in sentence and then defined on the bottom of the same page. Overall a very engaging resource for young learners and ELL students. Additional resources are linked at the end of the book, both web sites and more advanced books.

Grades: 3 -5

Summary: Find out why elephants are targeted by poachers and what is being done to keep these animals from disappearing for good. Though elephants are Earth's largest land animals, their size can't protect them from poachers. As a result of illegal hunting, these remarkable animals are disappearing from the wild. Readers will discover how elephants live and why it is so important to protect them.

Review: This book is currently out of print but I did find it in my local library. I have included a search link to find it in your library. Focused on the plight of the species, there is a nice section on their role as keystone species. The organization of the book is user friendly with a table of context, definitions of important words in the back, and questions for the students to thing about while reading.

Living Wild by Melissa Gish

Grades: 5-8

Summary: A look at elephants, including their habitats, physical characteristics such as their muscular trunks, behaviors, relationships with humans, and threatened status in the world today.

Review: This is an outstanding series of science books for middle school. Elephants combines beautiful photographs with scientific facts. An extensive chapter on the cultural context has been included. The text is organized in continuous paragraphs. This density of text could pose a challenge to some students. Overall a good elephant resource for advanced elementary and middle school students.


Web Resources

This is the official Walt Disney World web site. At this site you can find general elephant information as well as specifics about the elephants at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

A pdf of a magazine article. Best for older elementary and middle school students.

Kruger National Park website focusing on the Elephants as keystone species.



Dr Vicki Fishlock from The Amboseli Trust for Elephants explains some of the basic information about elephants role in changing their environments and affecting plant habitats. They are a charity reliant on donations from the global public.


Lesson Plans

Extensive lesson plans for Grade 4-8

Student and educator resources for Grades 3-5.

A lesson for Grades 3-5. Printable resources are provided.

A Minecraft Education lab for Ages 11-13 and 14-18. Explore the lab to learn core concepts of biodiversity then apply your knowledge to reveal the processes behind the five threatened species biomes.

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