Kangaroos, Koalas, Marsupials – Science Lessons for Elementary Students

A kangaroo standing upright, with a baby joey kangaroo sticking from the pouch
Somebody is saying hi – a joey ready to learn about marsupials. Hope he doesn’t get lost on the class fieldtrip. (Kangaroo Photo by Siggy Nowak)

Today’s a great day to meet a kangaroo, am I right?

Let’s hop into learning about some of the world’s most famous marsupials with this page. Marsupials are truly special creatures for their ability to carry their baby in a pouch, and each of the marsupials profiled is truly unique. From the kicking kangaroos to the eucalyptus-eating koalas, to the opossums with 13 babies born, and the spinning Tasmanian devils, there’s something truly magical about marsupials.

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Below are discussion questions ready for a Marsupials, Kangaroos, and Koalas Unit Study. These questions are based around the amazing book, “Super Marsupials: Kangaroos, Koalas, Wombats, and More” by Katherine Kenah, part of the Let’s Read and Find Out science series. Every question listed below can be answered by this detailed, accessible book! It is designed that an elementary student can follow along and answer this non-fiction text by themselves, or that they can answer after hearing each page read aloud to them.

I really recommend checking this book out in the library or buying a copy if you want to follow along.

Click here if you want to jump ahead to kangaroo videos and koala videos.

Discussion Questions:

Marsupials

Match the following animals with their home habitats (cave, nests, cribs, pouches)

People put their babies in ____________

Birds put their babies in _____________

Bears put their babies in a _________

Marsupials put their babies in __________

What are marsupial babies called? _______________

Four things learned about marsupials:

1.

2.

3.

4.

Kangaroos

Male kangaroos are called _____________ Female kangaroos are called ________

When are baby joey kangaroos ready to become independent? Which direction do kangaroos ears face?

What do you call a group of kangaroos?

How do kangaroos greet each other?

What protects a kangaroo’s eyes?

How does a kangaroo warn others in its group about danger?

Are kangaroo tails strong or weak?

How do kangaroos kick?

Can kangaroos hop one-legged?

Tree Kangaroos

Some kangaroos live up in ________!

Why do these kangaroos have long, curved claws?

These kangaroos go from branch to branch, but sometimes they will _____________ from the trees.

  1. brush their teeth 2. sing songs 3, fall to the ground

Koalas

Are koalas really bears?

Like kangaroos, koalas are ___________________. (Marsupials, animals)

When do koalas sleep?

What kind of trees are koalas’ favorite type of food?

Eucalyptus trees smell like ____________. Would humans like eating eucalyptus?

Baby koalas are joeys, too, and they ride in a pouch. When baby koalas get too big, where do they ride next?

How many toes do koalas have on their front paws?

Wombats

Where do wombats have their pouches?

How do wombats have their pouches?

How do wombats shrink their teeth?

What is a wombat home called?

If wombats connect their burrows, it is called a _____________.

How do wombats stay safe from fires?

How do wombats protect their homes when being chased?

Tasmanian Devils

Where do Tasmanian devils live?

What country is Tasmania located?

Image of Australia and Tasmania, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link to Commons Wikimedia (source)

How big are Tasmanian devils?

Do Tasmanian devils eat during the day? Or, do they eat during night?

What sounds do Tasmanian Devils make?

What colors do their ears become?

Why do Tasmanian devils spin in circles?

Sugar Gliders

What do sugar gliders look like?

Why do you think they are called sugar gliders?

How do sugar gliders stay in the air?

Opossums

Which marsupial can be found commonly in North America?

Where do opossums sleep?

When do marsupials eat? Day or night?

Select the things an opossum would eat: (hint: opossums aren’t picky eaters, but they don’t eat rocks)

trash plants insects tiny animals berries rocks

How many babies do opossums have?

After the babies grow out the pouch, where do they stay?

Where can opossums hang, using their tails?

What does a scared possum do?

Connection Questions: [after finishing the text]

What is in common with opossum tails and kangaroo tails? How do they differ?

When do koalas, opossums, and Tasmanian devils eat?

What marsupials can you see up in trees? Name 3.

What marsupial would be seen underground?

What adaptation would the tree kangaroo want from the sugar glider?

Wow, that’s a lot of information about seven different marsupials. These questions do not have to be written down by the student. They can be asked and answered orally. They can be used as trivia questions. They can be a jumping off place for researching more. They might want to be asked over several read-throughs, so that the first reading lets the student make a first impression – learning what is a koala and a kangaroo – and then later readthroughs have the student counting koala toes, planning wombat’s safety from enemy, and thinking about why tree kangaroos use claws to keep themselves safely latched onto trees.

Again, all answers for this discussion book can be found in “Super Marsupials: Kangaroos, Koalas, Wombats, and More” by Katherine Kenah, the book illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. It is a really rich resource for young readers – I learned a fact or two (or more!) reading through it.

This would go great with an Australia unit study, and tree kangaroos are native to Papua island of Indonesia, the island country right north of Australia. As for North American readers, there may be opossums living nearby in your community – in the East Coast, opossums are one of the most common mammals in our neighborhood. After family dogs and cats, and running backyard squirrels, the opposum is the mammal most likely to make an appearance (often as roadkill.) It is a useful animal that eats roaches, bugs, dead animals, and backyard trash – part of the ecosystem needs these opossums alive and thriving.

Best Kangaroo, Koala Videos for Elementary Students

Koalas

Netflix has Izzy’s Koala World. That’s a season of koala cuddles.

For a quick 3 minute video, with a koala in the back of a car. (discusses eucalyptus) Briefly mentions the Australian wildfires and how that affected this koala’s home habitat.

Kangaroos

Nature has this full-length 52 minute documentary about Kangaroos

Short video: Kangaroo Boxing Fight, a BBC Earth documentary that seems to be voiced by David Attenborough. Four minute video – contains animal aggression and athleticism.

Four Minute Video about Kangaroo Boxing Match, how they train to fight. BBC documentary, David Attenborough voices it.

Sugar Gliders

It was hard to find an informative video about sugar gliders because most of them are pet videos.

Tree Kangaroos

A documentary in the Cloud Forest of Papua New Guinea

10 minute documentary of Papua New Guinea, includes the view of a joey tree kangaroo still in the pouch of the mother tree kangaroo. Where is Papua New Guinea? – Right above Australia.

Tree Kangaroo – lots of information, perhaps too much information for your learning purposes

WARNING: goes into the reproductive system of the tree kangaroo. Very informative, but may not be what you want to be broadcasting if you weren’t prepared for that. On the other hand, if you want to know how baby tree kangaroos are made, you will get accurate information on what happens.

Again, content warning – this video covers female anatomy of a kangaroo

Wombats

This footage of wombats shows the camouflage of a wombat. It’s not that exciting, but it shows a wombat in the wild.

Baby Wombat – yes, a BABY wombat – living indoors, waiting to be released into the wild. Also, this video makes me wonder, was Stitch from Lilo & Stitch secretly a baby wombat?

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devils are an endangered species. There are about 600 total Tasmanian devils total, and the discussion is about the facial cancer that has infected the Tasmanian Devils. There’s a lot of puns like “the devil is in the details” but it’s mostly a hopeful documentary discussing plans for conservation and how to keep the species going.

North American Opossums

A 26 min documentary – the opossums may not be pretty, but they have survived a long time. They are a successful animal in the United States, and the only marsupial native to North America.

This documentary is by Ed Clark of the Virginia Wildlife Center, in the show Untamed.

If you made it this far, thank you for spending this time with me learning about marsupials, who are some really exciting creatures. Don’t forget to join us on more science adventures by subscribing with your email address.

Final Question

Which marsupial was your favorite? Let me know in the comments below. Now I’m going to go make like a koala, and eat some leaves (or leave.) It’s time for a delicious snack.

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