Deciding What Humans Need to Survive

Part of the "Forts and Garden Homes" Collection


Students will investigate the survival need of animals – including air, water, food and shelter – by building forts for themselves and determining what else they would need to live there, indefinitely. Students will extrapolate from this activity to identify the basic survival needs of any animal, and use that information to improve the garden as wildlife habitat.

Estimated Time

45 Minutes - 1 Hour

Setting Required



  • S1L1b. Students will ask questions to compare and contrast the basic needs of plants (air, water, light, and nutrients) and animals (air, water, food, and shelter).


  • Whiteboard or easel, markers
  • Journals or 8.5×11 copy paper (1 per student)
  • Coloring supplies (enough for each student)
  • Abundance of natural structural items: sticks, branches, leaves, pine needles, etc.
  • Selection of donated items: cardboard, newspaper, tablecloths, sheets, butcher paper, etc.


  1. In the outdoor space, explain to students that they will work together in small groups to build a fort where they think they could live. Remind students of expectations, boundaries, and the call back as well as how to share materials.
  2. After the forts have been built, reassemble the class for a fort tour. At each fort, ask the small group that built it to point out the key features and what they would add if they could.
  3. As a whole group, display a list of all of the key features of the forts then color-code the responses as either “needs” (essential for survival) or “wants” (nice or convenient but not essential) – explaining why they believe each feature is either a “need” or “want.”
  4. In looking at the list of “needs” that is developed by the class, assist students in synthesizing that the broad categories of what humans need to survive are water, food, shelter (housing, clothing, etc), and space.
  5. In their journals, students can create their own list of their top 4 needs and top 4 wants for their happiness in life (ensuring that the needs reflect water, food, shelter, and space).
  6. Ask students to think-pair-share, are the survival needs of humans the same as for other animals?