ALEX Lesson Plan


Little River Canyon's Carnivorous Green Pitcher Plants

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Larry Beane
System: Informal Education Partner
School: Informal Education Partner
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 29825


Little River Canyon's Carnivorous Green Pitcher Plants


A digital slide program introduces the Green Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia oreophila) to the students.  Students use a model of the Green Pitcher Plant and plastic insects to role play. They will tell the story of habitat adaptation and interaction around the pitcher plant bog. Pitcher Plants and the animals in the neighborhood have lives interconnected to the environment.

This lesson plan is made possible through the ALEX and the U.S. National Park Service Partnership.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC (K)
6. Compare size, shape, structure, and basic needs of living things.
  • Identifying similarities of offspring and their parents
  • SC (1)
    4. Describe survival traits of living things, including color, shape, size, texture, and covering.
  • Classifying plants and animals according to physical traits
  • Examples:
    animals—six legs on insects,
    plants—green leaves on evergreen trees
  • Identifying developmental stages of plants and animals
  • Examples:
    plants—seed developing into seedling, seedling developing into tree;
    animals—piglet developing into pig, kid developing into goat
  • Describing a variety of habitats and natural homes of animals
  • SC (2)
    5. Identify the relationship of structure to function in plants, including roots, stems, leaves, and flowers.
    SC (3)
    10. Determine habitat conditions that support plant growth and survival.
    Examples: deserts support cacti, wetlands support ferns and mosses
    SC (3)
    13. Describe ways to sustain natural resources, including recycling, reusing, conserving, and protecting the environment.
  • Recognizing the impact of society on human health and environmental conditions
  • SC (4)
    5. Describe the interdependence of plants and animals.
  • Describing behaviors and body structures that help animals survive in particular habitats
  • Examples:
    behaviors—migration, hibernation, mimicry;
    body structures—quills, fangs, stingers, webbed feet
  • Describing life cycles of various animals to include incomplete and complete metamorphosis
  • Examples: damsel fly, mealworms
  • Tracing the flow of energy through a food chain
  • Example: producer, first-level consumer, second-level consumer, and third-level consumer
  • Identifying characteristics of organisms, including growth and development, reproduction, acquisition and use of energy, and response to the environment
  • SC (5)
    9. Describe the relationship of populations within a habitat to various communities and ecosystems.
  • Describing the relationship between food chains and food webs
  • Describing symbiotic relationships
  • SC2015 (2)
    7. Obtain information from literature and other media to illustrate that there are many different kinds of living things and that they exist in different places on land and in water (e.g., woodland, tundra, desert, rainforest, ocean, river).
    SC2015 (4)
    9. Examine evidence to support an argument that the internal and external structures of plants (e.g., thorns, leaves, stems, roots, colored petals, xylem, phloem) and animals (e.g., heart, stomach, lung, brain, skin) function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

    Local/National Standards:


    Primary Learning Objective(s):

    Students demonstrate knowledge of the interdependence of plants and animals of the pitcher plant bog.  They demonstrate how pitcher plants acquire nourishment from insects and other animals.  They address predator - prey relationships.  Younger students may learn what each organism in the program eats.  Students role play the lives of flies, bumblebees, frogs, spiders, grasshoppers and other creatures that live in the pitcher plant bogs. 

    Additional Learning Objective(s):

    Learn about the habitat of the pitcher plants of Little River Canyon.  Learn what threats the pitcher plants have.  Learn how we can help the pitcher plants succeed.

     Preparation Information 

    Total Duration:

    0 to 30 Minutes

    Materials and Resources:

    • Digital slide program introducing the Endangered Green Pitcher Plant
    • Model pitcher plant (It can be constructed of craft plastic on a stand, floral materials, or construction paper) Constructing this could be a group project, individual project, or teacher could construct this earlier and this construction is not included in the time. 
    • Plastic flies (more than any other insect)
    • Plastic bumblebees
    • Plastic frogs
    • Plastic spiders
    • Plastic grasshoppers
    • Plastic praying mantis (optional)
    • Plastic insects

    Technology Resources Needed:

    Computern with Internet Access, slide program, projector and screen


    Construct a model of the Green Pitcher Plant, particularly the trapping leaf (pitcher), phyllodia (sickle shaped leaf), and flowering stem.  (The stem can be a plain floral stem.  The flowers have 3 sepals a 5 point star shaped shield on the stigma, with 5 rounded petals coming through the holes left by curling the arms of the star of the stigma.  (This detail is not really important, but it is hard to get detailed pictures for people who want to be detailed.)

    Read some of the materials about the Green Pitcher Plants to learn about their habitat, lives, and the lives of the insects and animals involved in the role playing.   

    Flies are attracted to the plants by the odors from the pitcher. 

    Bumblebees are the main pollinators of pitcher plants.

    Frogs eat insects and spiders.

    Spiders eat mainly insects, though some eat small animals such as frogs.  One spider lived on one pitcher of a pitcher plant at Little River Canyon more than 4 weeks. 

    Grasshoppers eat plants, and grasshoppers trapped in tubular leaf have damaged the pitcher before dying. 

    Praying mantids eat insects. 

    Background Green Pitcher Plant information web sites:



    Begin by introducing the Green Pitcher Plant. Students may research the Green Pitcher Plant prior to this presentation.  The Green Pitcher Plant is a carnivorous plant that traps and digests insects and small animals.  The pitcher plants are adapted to boggy areas without nutrients.  Most of the Green Pitcher Plant patches are in mountain bogs with shallow sandy soil within Little River Canyon National Preserve. 

    Presentation (see attachment)

    Set up the plant model so that is can be approached by students and seen by the class.  

    • Pass out plastic insects and animals randomly to students.
    • Ask them to line up.
    • Check to see that the flies and predatory animals are interspersed.
    • The last person in line should not have a plastic predator.   
    • Have the students approach the pitcher plant model and roll play their plastic animal's activities around the pitcher plant. 
    • If they can tell what the animal does allow them to role play and explain it.  Some people may need assistance, I ask for the group to raise their hand to tell me what that animal does to assist the roll player.
    • Flies are drawn to the pitcher but may not fly straight in.
    • Bumblebees pollinate flowers and fly off to other flowers.  (I hold my hand out  and say here is another flower to get pollinated, retrieving the bumblebee) When appropriate, I add a tangent lesson on pollination, seed production, and propagation by spreading rhizomes.  Plant populations connected by rhizomes are genetically one plant.  With this endangered species, that means all plants in patches populated this way are susceptible to the same diseases and problems. 
    • Frogs, spiders and praying mantids are predatory animals hanging out around the pitcher waiting for insects that are attracted by the pitcher plants.  I sometimes five the group an thumbs up or thumbs down choice of whether the flies etc. get "eaten" by the plant or the predator to increase group participation. 
    • When the roll playing ends the "pitcher of the plant has many insects, resembling the cutaway slide.  (Note: The cutaway slide was created by the National Fish and Wildlife Service, and for us to damage an endangered species without from a federal property like this would result in severe fines.  The slide is public domain.)

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    Assessment Strategies

    1. What type of habitats do Green Pitcher Plants require? 

    2. Name some adaptations the green pitcher plant has made to it's environment.

    3. Name some habits which benefit the animals in a pitcher plant bog.

    4.  What are some ways Green Pitcher Plants are harmed?

    5. Name some ways these plants are helped. 


    1.  Boggy open sunny areas with low nutrient sandy acidic soil.

    2.  Pitchers attract insects to provide nutrients in a poor soil area.  Large unwieldy flowers are shaped so that bumblebees pollinate them.  Phyllodia (smaller leaves) can make chlorophyll when needed.  Seeds are dispersed downstream when heavy rain or animals move them around.  Rhizomes spread the plant in the event there is not enough sunlight to flower. 

    3. Predatory animals hang around the pitchers to catch tehir food.  They themselves sometimes become pitcher plant food too. 

     4. Green Pitcher Plants are often poached or stolen.  The habitat is reduced by conversion to farmland.  Nearby farming and housing increases nutrients in the groundwater increasing plant competition.  Logging and regrowth disturb habitat.

    5.  Fire, ice storms, and wind create openings in forest areas that allow more light to reach the ground. Fire management reduces ground clutter, plant competition and increases light. 


    Find out what other pitcher plants live in Alabama, and compare and contrast their lives and habitat. 

    Research carnivorous plants all over the world. 

    Make arrangements to visit Little River Canyon National Preserve visitor center and see Jacksonville State University's Green Pitcher Plants on the trail to learn more. 


    Allow audience to assist in the activity by telling the role player what actions to take.  Make assignments to study these plants and animals before the presentations

    Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

    Presentation of Material Environment
    Time Demands Materials
    Attention Using Groups and Peers
    Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
    Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.