The Magic Bag

A habitat is a place where a plant or animal receives all the things it needs to survive - food, water, shelter and space. A habitat may be a very large area for an animal like a deer or it may be a fallen, decomposing log that is home to an insect. A plant may serve as part of a habitat such as shelter for a bird or it can be an entire habitat – for example, a milkweed plant is the only place a monarch caterpillar can live.

Other items necessary for plant and animal habitats are oxygen and sunlight. Oxygen may be obtained in different ways – fish absorb it from water whereas other animals inhale it from the air.

Sunlight is important for all life on earth. Without sunlight plants would not be able to photosynthesize (produce food) and the animals that depend on plants for food would not have anything to eat, thereby ending a food chain and ultimately the food web.

A garden can be a habitat for many things. Plants of course, grown in the right conditions where they get the right amount of sunlight, water and space will thrive. There are many insects that live in a garden and depend on the plants for their food, water, shelter and space. Larger animals like rabbits and groundhogs will find food and temporary shelter in a garden but may find it hard to meet all of its needs there so its habitat is often larger than just the garden space. White-tail deer are nomads which means they wander around a large area seeking their needs. Gardens are often nightly stopovers for a tasty treat.

This activity is suited best for students in first and second grade.


  • 1 “magic” bag with colored keys for air, water, food, shelter and space.
  • Five boxes that are color-coded to match the corresponding keys.
  • Inside each box should be a puzzle piece that matches the habitat component that has a clue to an animal on the back and a partial picture of an animal on the front.

Getting Ready

  • Before the activity hide the five habitat component boxes in the garden that are color-coded to match the keys in the magic bag. Inside each of the boxes should be a puzzle piece related to the habitat component with a clue to a specific animal. When all of the puzzle pieces in the boxes are put together it will be a picture of a special animal that meets all of its needs in the garden and the back of the puzzle will explain how the animal gets its needs.
  • You will need the “magic bag” containing five different keys listing the components of habitat.

Doing the Activity

  • Seat the children in a circle and tell them that in your hand is a “magic bag” that holds the keys to life on earth.
  • Ask the students if they can think of one thing that helps keep animals and plants alive on earth. As they name the components (food, water, shelter, air, space) pull a key out of the magic bag and hand it to the student who answered correctly. Tell them to hold on to the key until they have all been pulled out of the bag. A student can only answer once so that the keys are spread out to more students.
  • After all of the keys are out of the bag. Divide the students into five groups and make sure that each group has a student with a key. Explain that in the garden (or school yard, depending on the size of your garden) are five boxes that match the keys. Their job is to find the box that matches their key and bring it back to the circle. They are not allowed to open it until all of the boxes have been found and everyone is back together as a group.
  • When everyone is back together, open the boxes one by one and have a student from their group read the clue on the back of the puzzle piece. The clue will tell them how the mystery animal meets their particular need. Ask the students if they can guess what the animal might be. After you have received enough guesses, put the puzzle together in the center of the circle so that everyone can identify the animal whose habitat is a garden.

Additional Activities

  • Working in small groups, have students name animals common to your area and list where they meet their habitat needs.
  • Have students draw a picture of a place and include as many different animal species as possible that could be found living there.