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Using an Online Comic to teach Habitat and the Balance of Nature

Grade: 3 - 4
Science w/ Language Arts

Lesson Description:
Mr. Big by Matt Dembicki and Carol Ault Dembicki is a beautifully drawn serialized story that starts out by giving the reader a tour of a pond through the eyes of a giant snapping turtle. Part one shows the reader that this is HIS pond. The second part of the story creatively shows the pond at night. It further explores the idea of Mr. Big as the boss of the pond. The third part of the story takes a sharp turn. “Fish” is looking for her children. It turns out that they have been eaten, and Mr. Big is being blamed. She knows that is part of nature's balance, but she doesn't care. Here begins the plot to kill Mr. Big, thus ending his rule over the swamp. This chapter of the story gives a great alternative explanation for how the balance of nature and the food chain works, and how easy it is to upset this delicate balance.

The story is not gruesome, but animals get eaten in it. If you have sensitive students in your class you may want to prepare them for this.

Time Required: 3-5 classes (can use both Science and Language Arts classes) OR, the comics can simply be read by the class and used to spark discussion.

Specific Curriculum Outcomes (Specific only for New Brunswick, but I left them here because I thought someone might find them useful):  


205-5 make observations and collect information relevant to a given question or problem

302-2 describe how various animals are able to meet their basic needs in their habitat

302-3 classify organisms according to their role in a food chain

301-1 predict how the removal of a plant or animal population affects the rest of the community

301-2 relate habitat loss to the endangerment or extinction of plants and animals

Language Arts (Transitional - grades 3-4)

2. Speaking and Listening – Transitional (pg 56): Students will engage in and respond to a variety of oral presentations and other texts

5. Reading and Viewing – Transitional (pg 94): Students will generate their own questions as a guide for research

9. Writing and other ways of representing - Transitional (pg134): Students will be able to create texts collaboratively and independently, using a variety of forms for a range of audiences and purposes. Students will be expected to create written and media texts using a variety of forms. (See first two “Suggestions for teaching/learning”)

10. Writing and other ways of representing - Transitional (pg142): Students will select, organize, and combine relevant information with assistance, from at least two sources, without copying verbatim, to construct and communicate meaning


Equipment/Materials Required : Computer / Internet access (at least one computer for every two students. Research materials (library and internet). Plain white paper (8 ½ x11 or 8 ½ X 14) and drawing / colouring supplies.

The Lesson!

-Lesson 1:

The teacher will have already (briefly at least) introduced the concept of habitat and how the balance of nature and the food chain works.

The teacher will have the students go to www.comicsintheclassroom.net/oomrbig.htm and read Mr. Big #1. Then the class will discuss the elements of the food chain that were seen in the story. The teacher can ask probing questions to get the discussion going like: “Who would you say was at the top of the food chain in the pond?”

The students will read Mr. Big #2. When finished the class will discuss what was different at night on the pond (the students will discuss the introduction of nocturnal animals). Also, the teacher should ask “What happened at the end of the book?” – Something was eaten – this fact may be missed.

The students will then read #3 and 4 and discuss how the balance of the pond is about to be thrown off: the elimination of Mr. Big; the addition of the new predator.

-Lesson 2

The teacher will have students (individually, in pairs or in larger cooperative learning groups) choose an inhabitant of the pond habitat that they have been reading about in the Mr. Big stories to do a research project about.

The students will research their chosen animal's place in the habitat. What does it eat and what eats it? Students will write a report detailing this information as well as predicting what would happen to the habitat if their animal was removed and what would happen to the animal if the habitat was removed.

The students will create a diagram illustrating their animal's place in the pond's food chain.

The students will orally present their project.

Web-Based Resources: www.comicsintheclassroom.net/oomrbig.htm

Disclaimer: The recommended web-resources included here have been scrutinized for their grade and age appropriateness; however, contents on links on the Internet change continuously. It is advisable that teachers preview all links before recommending them to students.

Additional Information

Modifications: Struggling readers can be paired at a computer with a stronger reader, or the class could read the stories together if your school has a computer projector

Required elements for final project can be increased or decreased.

Additional Comments: Future chapters will be added to the web site as they come available. If you find the stories useful please support Matt and Carol Ault Dembicki by purchasing copies of their books for your school.

The story is not gruesome, but animals get eaten in it. If you have sensitive students in your class you may want to prepare them for this.

Credits: Matt Dembicki and Carol Ault Dembicki at http://www.waspcomics.com , m@waspcomics.com

Lesson by Scott Tingley, comicsintheclassroom@gmail.com

Any questions or comments, contact me at comicsintheclassroom @ gmail.com


Contents on links on the Internet change continuously. It is advisable that teachers and parents preview all links before recommending them to children.

The prior copyright notice was in error. The correct copyright notification is Comics in the Classroom, (C) Scott Tingley 2007 All rights reserved.

Comics in the Classroom and the Comics in the Classroom logo are trademarks TM of Scott Tingley 2007