What is an Environment? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Emily Lockhart

Emily has taught science and has a master's degree in education.

In this lesson, you will understand what to look for when evaluating an environment. The environment could be your home, your backyard or the country you live in.

Introduction to Environments

Do you have a memory where you have been inside and you were so hot you couldn't stand it? Perhaps it was a hot summer night and you just couldn't fall asleep. Maybe there was a time that your house was so cold that all the hot chocolate in the world couldn't heat you up. Most of the time, though, you can create your own environment that is comfortable, regardless of what the environment is outside.

An environment is defined by a region, that region's non-living conditions, and how the plants and animals adapt to those conditions to survive. Imagine trying to survive in the South Pole, which averages -60° C (-76° F) in the winter, or Mecca, which on summer days averages 40° C (104° F). Humans live in these extremes, but what about the plants and animals that call it home? Let's find out.

Environments of the World

Environments are defined by an area, whether it's land, water, or even in space. The area could be very small, like your backyard, or a large region like the Savanna of Africa. Environments are evaluated based on the non-living factors: things like temperature, rainfall, how much sunlight a region gets, or the nutrients found in the soil or water. Lastly, you compare the non-living factors to the life that is able to live under those conditions. These are ways you can evaluate environments.

Tropical rainforests are an example of an environment that receives lots of sunlight, consistently warm weather, and lots of precipitation, which is another word for rainfall. Tropical rainforests have distinct animals like tree frogs, brightly colored birds, large predatory cats and a large diversity of plants. The nutrients in the soil's surface are rich, leading to many varieties of organisms, which is anything that is living. Rainforests occur around the world.

These environments are a contrast to deserts like the Sahara in Africa and the Sonora of North America. Both deserts are defined by their hot temperatures and little rainfall, and little nutrients. Each non-living factor contributes to the plant and animal life that can withstand these extreme conditions. The animal life in the Sahara, if transplanted to the Sonora, is equipped for this environment. But a tree frog from the Amazonian rainforest couldn't survive in a desert.

Deserts, left, are very different from rainforests, right.

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