This Internet Workshop is linked to Fourth Grade Science Objectives from the N.C. Standard Course of Study.

Competency Goal 1: The learner will make observations and conduct investigations to build an understanding of animal behavior and adaptation.

1.01   Observe and describe how all living and nonliving things affect the life of a particular animal including:
•Other animals.
1.02   Observe and record how animals of the same kind differ in some of their characteristics and discuss possible advantages and disadvantages of this variation.
1.03   Observe and discuss how behaviors and body structures help animals survive in a particular habitat.
1.04   Explain and discuss how humans and other animals can adapt their behavior to live in changing habitats.
1.05   Recognize that humans can understand themselves better by learning about other animals

Key Terms:

Gorilla, habitat, extinct (extinction), environment, adapt (adaptation), characteristics, advantages (disadvantages), weather, climate, captivity and poachers


After the book The One and Only Ivan  is read out loud to the class, students will work through an Internet Workshop activity tied to Fourth Grade Science Competency Goal 1. This work also could be supported by self-selected reading in appropriately leveled texts during the language arts block.

Students will explore webpages in a particular order to scaffold their learning. When they are finished they will produce a presentation on what they’ve learned about gorillas, their habitats and how they might adapt to different situations. A part of their presentation will be an exploration of how Ivan adapted to his captivity and then his transition to the natural habitat zoo.

Webpage order:

  • Amazon book video
  • Pages specifically about Ivan
  • Basic information about gorillas
  • Basic information about gorilla habitats
  • Basic information about adaptation
  • Webpage about a baby gorilla rescued from poachers
  • Webpage about natural habitat zoos
  • Webpage about gorillas in captivity

Concepts for students to understand and apply:

Animals live in habitats and this environment affects the way they live and grow. Animals develop characteristics that allow them to take advantage of the elements in their habitats. The same kind of animal may have different features based on habitat. For example. lowland gorillas have short fur. Mountain gorillas have long thick fur. Some elements in habitats that may affect animals are other animals, plants, weather and climate. Gorillas live in rainforests in Africa. All gorillas are endangered which means they may become extinct. Many zoos keep gorillas. In the past 50 to 60 years, people’s understanding of animals and habitats has changed. Many zoos now keep animals in natural habitats. Zoos are attempting to breed gorillas and preserve their natural habitat so gorillas won’t become extinct. 

Essential Questions

  • What are the physical, mental and emotional characteristics of gorillas?
  • How do those characteristics give gorillas advantages when living in the wild?
  • What element in their habitat is having the most serious effect on gorillas today?
  • What does the history of people and their relationships with wild and captive gorillas tell us about mankind? In answering this question think about the capture of wild gorillas, poaching and the role of modern zoos.

Internet supports:

Diigo list of definitions of key terms for easy access:

Diigo list of webpages to visit, explore and respond to:

The Work

Work your way through this Internet Workshop from top to bottom.

1. We watched this video before we started reading Ivan. You can replay it if you like.

2. These sites are about the real Ivan.

Read the article about the real Ivan in the first link and his Zoo Atlanta article link. If you have trouble with a word while reading and feel like it is keeping you from understanding what you are reading, then reread the sentence to see if other words in the sentence can give you clues. Look the word up in an online student dictionary. Here is a good one:  Talk with your research partner about what the word means and how it fits into the sentence and the whole text.

Respond to these questions or directions.

A. What kind of habitat is described in the newstribune article?

B. What kind of habitat is described in the Zoo Atlanta page?

C. Connect each real life habitat to one of Ivan’s habitats in the book. Explain why you made the connections.

3.  These pages are about real gorillas in the wild. Look carefully at each one. Click on the tabs. Play the videos and listen to the gorilla sounds.

Remember what to do if you don’t know a word and it keeps you from understanding.

Respond to these questions or directions.

D. Describe the characteristics of gorillas. Be sure to talk about mental (brain and thinking), physical (body featured, shape, size and strength), and emotional (feelings and personality).

4. These webpages are about gorilla habitats.

Remember what to do if you don’t know a word and it keeps you from understanding.

Respond to these questions or directions.

E. Describe gorilla habitat in the wild. Describe means to tell about the important parts and to

explain why they are important.

Think about answering these questions in your description: Where do gorillas live? What is the

weather like where they live? What is the climate where they live? What kinds of plants and other

animals live there, too? Also, think about how all these elements of the habitat work together.

F. What elements (parts or pieces of a whole) in their habitat are threatening gorillas today?

G. What do the webpages say is the biggest threat (danger) to the gorillas today?

5.   These webpages are about adaptation.

Remember what to do if you don’t know a word and it keeps you from understanding.

Respond to these questions or directions.

H. How did Ivan adapt to his captivity when he was at the mall at the beginning of the book?

I. What was it that captured Ivan’s imagination about the natural habitat in the zoo?

J. How did the keepers in the gorilla rescue story about Dunia help her adapt to captivity?

6. These webpages are about the North Carolina Zoo. It is famous as a natural habitat zoo and is one of the largest and best zoos in the country.

K. What are the advantages for animals in a natural habitat zoo?

7. This video is a zookeeper from the London (England) Zoo talking about gorillas in captivity and their zoo habitat.

8. This is a link to a gorilla coloring page.

L. Why do you think the person who created this page used the pictures he or she did? What do they have to  do with a gorilla’s life in the wild?

The Final Project:

Now that we have really explored gorillas in the wild and in captivity, it’s time to put our work together and show what we’ve learned. You will create a three-part presentation.

Part 1 – This part is a presentation of what you consider to be the most important facts about gorillas. Present your facts in an attractive way and use photos, graphics and other elements to make it more appealing.

 Part 2 – This part of the presentation will connect your reading of The One and Only Ivan to our science unit research. Choose five elements of gorilla life in the wild and connect them to some aspect of Ivan’s life as it is told in the book. Make sure you explain clearly the connection between the wild and Ivan’s life in captivity.

Part 3 – This part of the presentation will allow you to use all you have learned. You are going to design a natural habitat area for gorillas for the N.C. Zoo. There are two parts. Using what you have learned about gorillas design a habitat that addresses these important parts of a gorilla’s life: environment, social needs, food, entertainment, other physical needs. Explain your work in a written document. It can be an essay, chart, graph or other form – but it must cover every topic. Then using the paper and craft supplies, draw your habitat. Label the area that addresses each of the important parts of a gorilla’s life.