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Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) WarmUp Activity: Life in the Sahara Desert

Laura Guertin, Penn State University Delaware County
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1) What the Sahara always a desert? How do we know? (*NOTE: for this question, I want you to focus on the physical environment)

2) What modern-day animals can be found in the desert? How do they survive?

3) Why have humans - past and present - gone into the Sahara Desert?

Student Responses:

See the Just-in-Time Teaching page on assessment for information and ideas on how to evaluate student responses.

Students will question the Sahara Desert in the context of geologic time and share that they are surprised that the desert was not always a desert. Students show surprise that life does exist in the desert, both human and animal. Instructors should prepare for questions about what is a sandstorm and an oasis.

References and Notes:

Articles that students may be assigned to read for this set of questions include (but are not limited to):

In Sahara, Salt-Hauling Camel Trains Struggle On, National Geographic News (more info) , May 2003.

Africa's Imperiled Rock Art Documented Before it Disappears, National Geographic News (more info) , October 2001.

Author's Sahara Trek Inspired by Classic Tale, National Geographic News (more info) , January 2001.

Desert-Adapted Crocs Found in Africa, National Geographic News (more info) , June 2002.

Satellites Reveal How Rare Elephants Survive Desert, National Geographic News (more info) , September 2002.

The use of Just-in-Time Teaching is discussed in detail on the JiTT Starting Point page.

Additional information on JiTT is available in the book:


Geoscience:Geology, Biology:Ecology:Habitats:Terrestrial

Resource Type

Activities:Classroom Activity:Just in Time Teaching

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Biosphere:Ecology, Solid Earth, Biosphere


Biosphere, Human Dimensions/Resources, Earth surface


Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Ecology