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Keystone Species - Beavers

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

Why are there no beavers at Walt Disney World? The easiest answer is alligators!





Beavers are indigenous to much of North America and most of you can find them very close to your backyard. They are a great way to introduce the concept of Keystone species to your students. A trip to a beaver pond is almost a right of passage for elementary students. In this blog post I will highlight some of the best resources for teaching students about the beaver's role as a keystone species in North America. My suggestion is to use these resources to extend the lessons that were introduced in the blog post on Keystone Species. This is all in preparation for examining the several keystone species highlighted at Walt Disney World.



For educators, I recommend starting your exploration of the world of beavers with this fantastic book, Eager The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and why they Matter by Ben Goldfarb. Reading this book will give you background knowledge and allow you to regale your students with many fantastic "Beaver Facts" . I also recommend this book for advanced middle school and high school students.






This award winning book details the consequences that the removal of millions of beavers from North America has had on our landscape and the amazing results that come from reintroducing this keystone species back into the ecosystem. This book makes you want to go out and lobby for change in your backyard!













As a starting point for students of all ages, I recommend watching the PBS documentary Leave it to Beavers. This fifty minute Nature documentary from 2014 is available on Amazon Prime Video.



"From PBS - The fascinating story of beavers in North America - their history, their near extinction, and their current comeback, as a growing number of scientists, conservationists and grass-roots environmentalists have come to regard beavers as overlooked tools when it comes to reversing the disastrous effects of global warming and world-wide water shortages. Once valued for their fur or hunted as pests, these industrious rodents are seen in a new light through the eyes of this novel assembly of beaver enthusiasts and "employers" who reveal the ways in which the presence of beavers can transform and revive landscapes. Using their skills as natural builders and brilliant hydro-engineers, beavers are being recruited to accomplish everything from re-establishing water sources in bone-dry deserts to supporting whole communities of wildlife drawn to the revitalizing aquatic ecosystems their ponds provide."


I have also found five reference books that can be used by both elementary and early middle school students to learn more about beavers.




Beavers

Grades: Preschool - K

Summary: A kindergarten-level introduction to beavers, covering their growth process, behaviors, the dams they call home, and such defining features as their flat tails.

Review: This is a great series known for large photos and one sentence text. Important vocabulary words are highlighted. 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.



At Home with the Beaver - The Story of a Keystone Species by Dorthy Hinshaw Patent

Grades: K-5

Summary: Beavers are dubbed a keystone species for good reason. The dams they build create ponds and other wetlands that are habitat for everything from microscopic life to giant moose. Dorothy Hinshaw Patent’s inviting text introduces readers to the great variety of living things inhabiting beaver ponds, while exploring the pivotal role beavers play in making this diversity possible. Michael Runtz’s breathtaking photographs bring the beauty of these habitats to life, making readers feel as though they are right there beside him on the pond shore. Through AT HOME WITH THE BEAVER: THE STORY OF A KEYSTONE SPECIES, children will discover that by building a dam, beavers have not only created a home for themselves but have also provided a habitat for hundreds if not thousands of other life forms



Beavers The Superpower Field Guide by Rachel Poliquin and Nicholas Frith

Grades: 3-7

Summary: Meet Elmer, an ordinary beaver. He may not be as mighty as a lion or as dangerous as a shark. He may be squat and brown. But never underestimate a beaver. I can almost hear you saying, “But aren’t beavers just lumpy rodents with buck teeth and funny flat tails?” Yes, they are! And believe it or not, those buck teeth and funny flat tails are just a few of the things that make beavers extraordinary. Humorous and engaging, Beavers is the first book in the new highly illustrated nonfiction Superpower Field Guide series, inspiring readers to laugh, think, and view the world around them with new eyes. Glossary. Suggestions for further reading. Full-color illustrations were created using a mixture of black ink, pencil, and wax crayon, then colored digitally.

Review: This is my favorite beaver resource for children. There is so much factual information included in both text and illustrations. Each chapter focuses on one "Superpower" that beavers possess. There are quizzes included throughout the book to do a quick check for comprehension but in a fun way. It is a fun, entertaining and thoroughly engaging resource for elementary students! If you have to choose one book to purchase this is the one to pick!


Beavers by Gail Gibbons

Grades: PreK- Grade 4 and up

Summary: Beavers are fascinating animals. They build their own homes and live in family groups. They keep busy with their sharp teeth, powerful tails, and big webbed feet. Their work helps to preserve wetlands. Gibbons explores where they live, what they eat, how they raise their young, and much more.

Review: This picture book is a good resource for beaver facts. Colorful, engaging and accessible for the young elementary student and beyond.




Living Wild Beavers by Melissa Gish

Grades: 5-8

Summary: A scientific look at beavers, including their habitats, physical characteristics such as their gnawing teeth, behaviors, relationships with humans and abundance of the rodents in the world today.

Review: This is an outstanding series of science books for middle school. Beavers combines beautiful photographs with scientific facts. The outstanding feature of this book is that cultural context has been included. The important role of beavers in the colonization of North American and the special place beavers have in the folklore. Beavers special place in the lives of indigenous peoples is explored as well. Overall a fantastic resource for the keystone species of beavers for advanced elementary and middle school students.



There are also some additional web resources for you to use:


General Information:


Beaver Management:


Video resources


Wild Kratts Season 1 Episode 7 - Build it Beaver - 26 minutes - Amazon Prime



 

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