Contributor: Samantha Penna. Lesson ID: 11417

Do you know the difference between a turtle and a tortoise? Why do they carry their house with them? Watch a short video, enjoy some cute pictures, and do some research about these engaging creatures!


Life Science

learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Why do you think a turtle has a protective shell?

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Turtles come in many different shapes and sizes.

They can be found in many different places worldwide!

  • Have you ever seen a turtle?
  • Have you ever owned a pet turtle?

One fact you may know about turtles is how slowly they move. This is the reason they need a protective shell. Their shell helps protect them from predators.

  • Can you practice walking like a turtle?

small turtle walking

Turtles are reptiles. A reptile is a cold-blooded animal, has scaly skin, and lays eggs. All reptiles have backbones.

This means a turtle has all of these characteristics.

A turtle has to regulate its temperature because it is cold-blooded. Look at the picture below.

  • What are those turtles doing?

turtles basking in the sun

Great work! All the turtles below are sunbathing.

Turtles lay in the sun to raise their body temperature. When they get too cool, the sun warms them up!

  • What do turtles do when they get too hot?
  • Did you say they lay in the shade or dip in the cool water?

Fantastic! Turtles cool off in the water they live near and hide in the shade when it's too hot!

  • Did you know turtles have a backbone?

All turtles have backbones. Animals that have backbones are vertebrates. Check out the bones of a turtle shown below.

  • Can you see the spine in the middle?

sea turtle

Turtles lay eggs. Some turtles, like sea turtles, lay their eggs on the beach. Sea turtles lay their eggs on beaches at night in nests buried in the sand. Turtles that live on land, like box turtles, lay their eggs in nests in the soil. Turtle eggs usually aren't left above ground; turtles dig holes and lay them in the hole.

  • Why do you think they lay their eggs in a hole? Share your answer with a parent or teacher.

Turtles lay their eggs below the soil to protect their eggs from predators. For example, painted turtles sometimes lose their eggs to hungry raccoons and birds.

Some turtles lay many eggs, while others lay only a few. Sea turtles often lay one to two hundred eggs in one nest.

  • Do you see the sea turtle eggs below?

turtle eggs

Their eggs look like ping-pong balls! A painted turtle will only lay around ten eggs.

  • Why do you think some turtles lay more eggs than others?

Some turtles lay many eggs because few of their young survive. Sea turtles must lay many eggs because only one out of every thousand turtles will survive long enough to reach adulthood.

Many sea turtles are taken by humans and kept as pets; predators eat some; and some are killed by disease.

Turtles live in many different places.

  • Where do you think sea turtles can be found?

That's right! Sea turtles can be found in the sea! Sea turtles live in warm and temperate oceans.

  • Why do you think they don't live in icy water?
  • Did you know some turtles swim over one thousand miles to find nesting and feeding grounds?

Sea turtles return to their nesting grounds where they were born and lay their eggs on the beach.

Sea turtles have lungs just like you do!

  • How do you think they can survive underwater?

Sea turtles can hold their breath underwater. They can hold their breath for four to seven hours! When they need air, they come up to the surface.

sea turtle

Turtles that live on land can be found in many different places on the earth. Turtles live on nearly every continent except Antarctica.

  • Why do you think turtles don't live in Antarctica?

Turtles can't live in Antarctica because it is too cold!

  • Did you remember that turtles are cold-blooded and need to regulate their body temperatures?

Look at the black sections of the map below. This is where turtles can be found on land. The blue section shows where sea turtles can be found.

world turtle distribution map

  • Did you notice that many of the sections in the north don't have any turtles?

This is because the temperatures are way too cold!

Before moving on to the Got It? section, take out a sheet of paper and write your answers to the questions below.

  • Turtles are reptiles. What does it mean to be a reptile?
  • What do turtles do to regulate their body temperature?
  • Where do turtles lay their eggs?
  • Where can turtles be found on the earth?


When you are finished writing your answers, move to the Got It? section.

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