Animal Life: Study Action Areas


Each of the nine MAC themes is divided into four study action areas. This page sets out specimen content for the study action areas that form part of the Animal Life theme.

The four study action areas in this theme are:

  1. All about animals
  2. The importance of animals to human life
  3. Threats to animal environments, well-being and survival
  4. Living sustainably

This page also includes the following:

MAC brings together disparate National Curriculum materials and adds important material, aiming to organise children’s learning in a focused and determined way.

There is no suggestion that the content set out below is in any sense definitive. It is intended merely for discussion and debate, a starting point for the detailed programmes of learning that will be required for each year group.

Animal Life focuses on the value of animals to human life and aims to develop in pupils an interest in the need to preserve animal diversity, preserve animal habitats and manage the use of animals in sustainable ways.

Children develop their scientific and geographical knowledge and skills in their learning as outlined in The National Curriculum for England, Key Stages 1 & 2.

Study Action Area 1: All about animals

Children learn to appreciate animal life by finding out the variety of animal life existing on the planet, their main characteristics and that human beings are themselves animals.

Specimen content:

  • Characteristics: Recognise the characteristics of what makes an animal an animal; to group animals according to their characteristics.
  • Biodiversity: Explore the richness of animal life locally and globally. Identifying a variety of common animals in Britain and globally.
  • Survival: Describe what animals need to survive.
  • Similarity: Recognise humans are mammals with similarities to other mammals.
  • Reproduction: Find out about the life cycle of common groups of animals (mammals, amphibians, insects and birds).
  • The neighbourhood: Find out what wild animals there are locally and nationally.
  • Habitats: Explore the variety of animal habitats on land and in water, how they are part of food chains (carnivores, herbivores and omnivores) and ecosystems – local, national and global.
  • Evolution: Know that animals have changed over time to adapt to their environment and characteristics are inherited through the generations.
  • Humans as animals: Link to the Merged Action Curriculum Learning Domain ‘The Body’.

Study Action Area 2: The importance of animals to human life

Children learn about and report on their knowledge of how human use of animals is interwoven into and contributes greatly to human life and living.

Specimen content:

  • Interest: Explore the human fascination of animals in art, film, documentaries, literature, mythology and religion; keeping animals as pets, animals in sports, animals in zoos and wildlife safaris.
  • Importance: Describe the importance of animals in the lives of humans – the benefits to humans – food, clothes, beasts of burden and/transport, animal research, animal assisted therapy, dogs for the blind, security, use by the military, the pets industry; plant pollination.
  • Jobs: Find out about jobs involving animals such as animal nutritionists, animal psychologists, animal chiropractors, nature conservationists, zookeepers, zoologists, vets environmental consultants and animal farmers.

Study Action Area 3: Threats to animal environments, well-being and survival

Children are sensitized to the issues facing animals caused by human use of animals and their environments so they are better mentally prepared as adults to find solutions.

Specimen content:

  • Habitat destruction: Know what is meant by forest and jungle clearance, deforestation, and pollution of the natural world where animals struggle to survive with loss of bio-diversity.
  • Extinction: Describe animal extinction by giving examples and find out some of the causes.
  • Farming: Learn about the impact on the environment of billions of animals reared annually for food.
  • Harm to humans: Know the use of chemicals and use of antibiotics in the rearing of animals getting into the human food chain. Learn about pathogens in meat, milk, eggs, honey, reconstituted meat, CJD, bacteria and virus contamination in meat and animal food derivatives.
  • Ethical: Explore the different ways in which animals are reared for food; learn that animals are used to experiment on in laboratories and develop an opinion on the practices of animal experimentation.

Study Action Area 4: Living sustainably

Children experience actions humans take to live sustainably in their locality and explore ways in which humans are living sustainably in Britain and globally.

Specimen content:

  • Appliance of science: Know examples of how animal science reduces environmental impact; find out how meat is being produced without animals involved.
  • Conservation: Find examples of conservation of endangered species and the benefits conservation brings to ecosystems.
  • Gene pools: Know what is meant by preservation of genetic variation, who does it and how is it done.
  • Ethical: Know examples of improvements in the conditions in which animals are reared for food; develop their own point of view.
  • Health: List examples of how human health is helped by changes in the rearing of animals for human consumption, for example, animals reared organically; reduction of impact of additives to animal feed; reduction in the use of antibiotics in animal feed; how human health issues re safety of animal products are avoided, e.g., eggs (salmonella), milk (pathogens).

Teaching notes

Children acquire positive habits to living sustainably through experiencing practical ways of living sustainably and habits they can take into their adult lives with the purpose of contributing towards greater sustainability of animal life and animal environments.

This might involve things such as:

  • Diet: Know what the advantages to the planet are by eating less meat.
  • Pets: Know what pet well-being is and how to look after pets.
  • Conservation: Build insect, bird and bee habitats in the school grounds, or in the home garden; plant wild flowers and garden flowers and bushes that attract insects; link (through the school, or home) with local conservation activities.
  • Make field trips: Carry out surveys of what wild animals live in the neighbourhood; visit zoos, aquariums, national parks and wildlife refuges in the area and find out why they are important; learn how to feed birds and wild animals the right way.
  • Recycle safely: Take your rubbish home to be recycled; follow recycling guidelines; dispose items a danger to animals carefully.
  • Adopt an animal: Take an interest in endangered animal species and, through the school, adopt an animal and habitat by writing and fundraising.
  • Have an opinion: Explore your attitude towards animals. Key question: How do we feed everyone across the planet and eat meat at the same time?

Further information

Websites contributing ideas and information to the action areas are listed on the links page.

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