Goldilocks and the Three Hares

Share a book guide that includes activities and discussion questions that can be successfully integrated into a cross-curriculum program.
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Updated on: February 6, 2001
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Which Is It: A Rabbit or a Hare?

Fun Facts
Rabbits and hares are lagomorphs, not rodents. Among various other distinctions, lagomorphs have three pairs of ever-growing incisors, as opposed to two pairs in rodents.

The jack rabbit on page 3 of Goldilocks is only one example of the rabbit/hare name confusion. Like the jack rabbit, the snowshoe rabbit is really a hare. Its fur changes color to match its environment, being brown in summer and white in winter. On the other hand, the Belgian hare, a lean, racy-looking pet, is really a rabbit.

European rabbits are social animals, with more than one family sharing an extensive underground warren, while many American cottontails live alone above ground like hares. Cottontails, however, are true rabbits because their young are born naked and blind.

The mother rabbit leaves her nest largely unattended, visiting the babies to nurse only a few minutes twice a day (at dawn and at twilight), when she is more difficult to see and less likely to attract predators.

For Discussion
1. What are the differences and similarities between rabbits and hares? How are they different from other mammals?

2. Name other popular rabbits (e.g., Uncle Wiggly, Peter Rabbit, etc.). Are they rabbits or hares?

3. How can you tell?

4. Rabbits are a natural for teaching math concepts. Think of the multiplication possibilities alone! According to Paul Paradise in Rabbits (T. F. H. Publications, 1979), it is estimated that a single pair of rabbits can produce in the neighborhood of 13 million rabbits in three years.

5. You can figure out your own math problems from the following statistics: a female rabbit (called a doe) can bear as many as 30 babies (fawns) a year in about four litters (the male – you guessed it – is called a buck). Young rabbits are ready to breed in less than a year. The average lifespan of a pet rabbit is six to eight years (12 is a record), but wild rabbits are lucky if they make it to their first birthday.

6. Visit a zoo or nature center that has rabbits and hares, or invite someone from the zoo, nature center, or humane society to talk about their experiences with rabbits.

7. Design a rabbit warren in cross-section with the class and discuss what life for the rabbits would be like.

8. Have the students write about their experiences with rabbits or other wild animals, including vivid details, and how they felt, or if the encounter changed them in some way.

Are Weasels Evil and Mice Nice?

Fun Facts
According to Mervin F. Roberts, in Mice as Pets (T. F. H. Publications, 1977, pp. 18, 19): Assume that mice produce young 60 days after birth and every 60 days thereafter. Actually they can do even BETTER than that. In a year and a half, a pair of breeding mice can produce a population of nearly 4 million, which, stretched nose to tail (seven per mouse, on the average), works out to about 450 miles, which is as far as from Alfred, New York, to Washington, DC, via Salem, West Virginia (give or take a mouse or two).

For Discussion
1. What is the food chain? What is the difference between predator and prey? What animals prey upon mice, rabbits, and weasels, and what do they prey upon?

2. Have students use maps to determine what other cities are 4 million mice apart. How many mice (stretched nose-to-tail) would it take to reach London, Paris, Tokyo, or other destinations?

3. Designate the children as grasshoppers, mice, and weasels, according to color-coded yarn tied around their wrists. The weasels can hunt only mice, mice hunt only grasshoppers, and grasshoppers eat only grass (represented by popcorn). Each child is given a sandwich-size baggie, which represents a stomach.

4. This game, called Catch Me If You Can, can be found in Critters, an AIMS Education Foundation teacher resource book.

  • The game is played outside, with a designated area as the main playing field and two or three safe zones, where the animals may not prey on each other. The teacher spreads popcorn on the main playing area. The grasshoppers are set loose for 30 seconds to gather popcorn. Only the grasshoppers are allowed to gather popcorn. The mice are set loose to eat (tag) the grasshoppers.
  • The caught grasshopper must put its popcorn in the mouse's bag; grasshoppers with empty bags are sent to a designated area to wait for the next game.
  • After another 30 seconds, the weasels are set loose on the mice. The same rules continue for a few minutes, or stop if all the prey are dead (out of popcorn). At the end of the game, all remaining animals must have the following amounts of food, or they are dead: grasshoppers - bag 1/3 full; mice - 2/3 full; weasels - full.
  • By varying the size of the playing area, as well as the number of each animal, children can learn the effects of crowding and the balance of the food chain. You can also include cheese popcorn with the regular, without explaining the distinction. The cheese popcorn represents pesticide and any animal with three or more kernels at the end of the game has died of toxic poisoning.

5. Take a nature hike through the park, woods, or the school yard. Make sketches of all the animals that are found, including insects. Back in the classroom, identify the animals.

6. Join an environmental organization, such as the Nature Conservancy Adopt-a-Bison program, which helps the black-footed ferret since it shares the same habitat. Call 1-800-628-6860 for more information.

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