Deserts of the World

Introduction

As members of the global community, we must increase our understanding of the desert regions of the world. Today the relationships among peoples in desert environments affect environmental protection, world food supplies, agribusiness, and cultural and biodiversity. Comparing and contrasting our own desert communities with other desert regions is a first step to solving many of the world's environmental, food and diversity problems. By completing this quest you will have gained great insight into our world's desert environments.

Background Information

These are the Deserts of the World:

  • North American Deserts: Great Basin, Mohave, Sonoran, Chihuahuan
  • South American Deserts: Peruvian, Atacama, Patagonian
  • African Deserts: Sahara, Negev, Namib, Kalahari,
  • Middle East Deserts: Jordanian, Arabian, Rub'al-Khali
  • Asian Deserts: Kara Kum, Kyzyl Kum, Takla Makn, Gobi
  • Australian Deserts: Great Sandy, Gibson, Great Victoria, Simpson
  • Arctic Deserts

World map showing locations of desert regions

The Task

The Chief Curator of the Chihuahuan Museum of Natural History and Science has selected your team to create an interactive exhibit comparing the Chihuahuan Desert to other desert areas of the world for their Children's Museum. Your task is to inform the public of the differences and similarities of the desert habitats. Your display will include information about the flora, fauna, people, and the environment.

1. Divide into groups of seven: Each group will have 2 Horticulturists, 2 Zoologists, 2 Anthropologists, and 1 Curator. Each group will be responsible for gathering information on the Chihuahuan Desert and one other desert, then creating an interactive exhibit for children such as; plays, games, displays, maps, storytelling, graphs, multimedia presentations, art, music, dance and cooking.

Horticulturists:

Tip: Remember, one of you will be researching the Chihuahuan Desert and the other person will research the selected desert.

  • Compare and contrast five species of plants.
  • What are the four main foods of your area?
  • What unique planting techniques are used in the area?
  • How did the native people use agriculture in the area?
  • How did the native people make use of water?
  • Describe plant adaptations to desert survival.
  • What plants would you find during a walk in the area?
  • What plants are used for medicinal purposes?
  • Create an appealing name for your display that would capture the interest of children such as: Bug Detectives for the Entomologists.
  • Relate your findings to the environment.
  • The curator will be responsible for coordinating the interactive exhibit.

Zoologists:

Tip: Remember, one of you will be researching the Chihuahuan Desert and the other person will research the selected desert.

  • Classify the desert animal kingdom into groups: insects, fish, reptiles, mammals, domesticated animals, birds, and amphibians.
  • Highlight the most interesting animal in each animal group.
  • How do animals survive in a desert?
  • What adaptations have animals made to survive in the desert?
  • Are any animals of the desert threatened or endangered? Give examples and tell why.
  • Describe a desert food chain.
  • Create an appealing name for your display that would capture the interest of children such as: Bug Detectives for the Entomologists.
  • Relate your findings to the environment.
  • The curator will be responsible for coordinating the interactive exhibit.

Anthropologists:

Tip: Remember, one of you will be researching the Chihuahuan Desert and the other person will research the selected desert

  • Who are the native people?
  • Who are the present day peoples of the desert?
  • Summarize the history of the area.
  • What are the celebrations, festivals, or events related to desert living?
  • Describe the shelters, lifestyles, and clothing of the desert.
  • Share any native folklore of the desert.
  • What are man-made environmental problems in the desert?
  • Describe past or present art, music, and recreation.
  • Create an appealing name for your display that would capture the interest of children such as: Bug Detectives for the Entomologists.
  • Relate your findings to the environment.
  • The curator will be responsible for coordinating the interactive exhibit.

Online Resources

Offline Resources

  • Eyewitness Book: Desert by Miranda Macquitty
  • Gathering the Desert by Gary Paul Nabhan
  • Growing Desert Plants from Windowsill to Garden by Theodore B. Hodoba
  • In the Desert by Q.L.Pearce and W.J. Pearce
  • A Desert Scrapbook by Virginia Wright-Frierson
  • Desert Legend by Gary Paul Nabhan
  • Desert Life by Alice Jablonsky
  • The Desert is my Mother by Pat Mora
  • Deserts by James A. MacMahon
  • The Desert Classroom laserdisk by New Mexico State University
  • Survivors in the Sand video by New Mexico State University

The Process

  1. Your team of experts will compare and contrast horticulture, anthropology,and animal life from the Chihuahuan Desert and another desert of the world.
  2. Each team will consist of a minimum of: 2 Horticulturists, 2 Anthropologists, and 2 Zoologists. (Tip:One expert will research the Chihuahuan Desert and the other expert will research the selected desert.) Make sure you have assigned one Curator to each group who will coordinate the interactive display.
  3. Teams are to gather information from online and off line resources for their particular groups.
  4. Bookmark additional online resources.
  5. Teams are to decide what product they will create for their aspect of the interactive exhibit such as: maps, storytelling, and games.
  6. Analyze and compile your findings and create your exhibit as a team.

Learning Advice

Be sure to keep track of your findings in a portfolio or a word processing document and save them on a diskette. As a researcher always be aware of the ethnic perspective of the information and data you gather.

Evaluation

It is recommended that the instructor utilize the Summative Assessment Scoring Rubric for this Desert Webquest.

Conclusion

Now that you have a deeper understanding of the world's deserts you are ready to contribute to solutions to the problems of environmental preservation, world hunger, and cultural/biodiversity. You are now ready to synthesize and evaluate different perspectives of native cultures of the deserts. To extend your learning of the deserts of the world you may want to: Interview local policy makers, consult with experts, communicate with other desert schools, plant gardens representative of the various deserts you have studied.

This page was written by: Jennifer Holmes,Cissy Lujan-Pincomb, cpincomb@lcps.k12.nm.us , Miriam Martinez.