1. Provide real world examples in order to develop a concept map or chart outlining the locations and characteristics of deserts.

  2. Explore the vegetation and life within this environment, and the precarious balance needed to maintain that life.

  3. Introduce the new vocabulary and definitions, reiterating them throughout the lesson.

  4. Keep to the basic information with activities to allow practice with the new content material.

This learning packet should help a learner seeking to understand the varied and diverse environment of the desert and its effect on living things.

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Desert Podcast

Listen to this 5 minute podcast to learn about the different types of deserts that exist on Earth and where you can find them. Additionally, learn about some of the ways that plants and animals have adapted to survive in these extremely dry climates. You can scroll down as you listen to the podcast to see images and text that reinforce what you are learning.

Information from this podcast was compiled from the following sources:

National Geographic. (n.d.). Deserts: Arid but full of life. Retrieved from http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/desert-profile/

University of California Museum of Paleontology. (n.d.). The desert biome. Retrieved from

cold desert. (2011). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/125045/cold-desert

Tobin A.J. & Dusheck J. (1998). Asking About Life. Orlando, FL: Saunders College Publishing.

Deserts are dry, but not necessarily hot!

Though all deserts are dry - receiving on average less than 25 centimeters or 10 inches of rain each year - not all deserts are hot. There are actually four types of deserts: hot and dry, semi-arid, coastal and cold.

Hot and dry desert  


Hot and dry deserts - remain hot all year long, both night  and day






semi-arid desert



Semi-arid deserts - remain hot during the day all year round, but can get cold at night







coastal desert





Coastal deserts - are found along the coast and typically have long, warm summers and short, cold winters










cold desert





Cold deserts - are typically found at high altitudes or near the Earth's poles and remain cold for most of the year





Photographs provided by:

Cold desert: By bitacoreta at



Coastal desert: By bitacoreta at



hot and dry desert: by winkyintheuk at



semi-arid desert: by barrio dude at


Deserts are found on all Earth's continents

Deserts take up one-fifth of all the land on Earth and can be found on each of Earth's continents.

map of non-polar deserts

Source: Map of Non-polar arid land by US Geological Survey at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/deserts/what/world.html

How plants survive in deserts

Plants have adapted to survive in deserts through special adaptations. Some of those adaptations include fleshy tissue that stores water, deep roots that can access water very far below the surface of the ground, and small leaves that prevent water from evaporating from the leaves of the plant into the dry air around the leaves.


prickly pear cactus

Animals have ways of surviving in the desert

Animals use special adaptations to survive the dry, harsh conditions of the desert. Some animals use a summer-time hibernation-like state known as torpor. Some choose to be active at night or when the sun is low in the sky. Some cool the blood in their bodies using air that they cool in their noses.

Camel nose

Source: Photo by by seriousfun at http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/72928

Desertification is usually caused by something other than drought: humans.

Desertification is when the soil of a semi-arid area becomes so compacted or eroded that it fails to provide a good place for plants to grow. When this happens, an unnatural desert forms. Typically, desertification is caused by human activity.

dry soil

Desert Review Slideshow

Use this slideshow review to test your knowledge and understanding of the information presented in this learning packet.

Source: Slideshow created by Meagan Leatherbury