Artistic Dialogue and Animal Behavior
Meets the learning standards for grades 4-5 (can be adapted)
Media Type: Engaging with Art
Subject Integration: Fine Arts, English Language Arts and Reading, Science
Formal Lesson Plan and TEKS Information

What do you know about  Prairie Dogs? Let’s watch this video before we get started:

Activity 1:

In the scientific article “Cognition and Communication in Prairie Dogs” The prairie dog specialist C.N. Slobodchikoff wrote this about the advanced communication within a colony:

“The alarm call system has proven to be a Rosetta Stone for deciphering the information encoded in prairie dog vocalizations. When a prairie dog detects a predator, he or she emits a call that alerts other prairie dogs to the presence of danger.”

Slobodchikoff provided fascinating flow charts illustrating the communication of various threats and the resulting action plans. (You can read the full article here.)

  • Have you ever used or seen a flow chart? Take a look at the ones below as an example:

  • Let’s act it out! Perform the different prairie dog responses to each specific threats.
  • Next, act out the role of the various threats and explain what the prairie dogs’ might do in each situation.
  • Create your own flowchart with different “threats” that a might cause a prairie dogs to react. Create as many branches of responses and contingencies as you can.
  • Discuss!

Activity 2:

  • Teaching Artist AmbeR Day Scott’s paintings below depict prairie dogs reacting to a total solar eclipse. Use what you’ve learned to guess how a prairie dog might respond to a very rare cosmic event.
  • Study the  paintings below. What do you see? What is happening in each painting? What element in the painting represents an eclipse?


  • Select one of the three paintings as inspiration for a bit of creative writing. Write a poem, song lyrics, a short story, a fairy tale, or even a flow chart of responses.

Share your work with us!
You can upload your creative writing or photos of themselves imitating prairie dog responses here!