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!


Why do you think a turtle has a protective shell? (Aren't they cute?)

Turtles come in many different shapes and sizes.

They can be found in many different places around the world!

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

Share what you know about turtles with your parent or teacher.

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. Stand up and show your parent or teacher how slowly turtles move.

turtle walking

Turtles are reptiles. A reptile is an animal that is cold-blooded, has scaly skin, and lays eggs. All reptiles have backbones. (Check out the Elephango lesson found in Additional Resources in the right-hand sidebar, to learn more reptiles.) 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? Share your answer with your parent or teacher.

turtles basking in the sun

Great work! All of the turtles below are sunbathing. Turtles lay out in the sun to raise their body temperature. When they get too cool, the sun warms them up!

  • What do you think turtles do when they get too hot? Tell your parent or teacher your answer.
  • Did you say they lay in the shade or take a dip in the cool water?

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

  • Did you know turtles have a backbone?

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

  • Can you see the spine in the middle?

All turtles have backbones.

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 their eggs 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 and others lay only a few eggs. Sea turtles often lay one- to two-hundred eggs in one nest.

  • Do you see the sea turtles eggs below?

turtle eggs

Their eggs look like ping pong balls! The painted turtle you read about earlier will only lay around ten eggs.

  • Why do you think some turtles lay more eggs than others? Tell your parent or teacher.

Some turtles lay lots of eggs because not many of their young survive. Sea turtles have to 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, some are eaten by predators, and some are killed by disease.

Turtles live in many different places.

  • Where do you think sea turtles can be found? Share your answer with a parent or teacher.

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

  • Why do you think they don't live in extremely cold water? Share your answer with your parent or teacher.
  • 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 are able to survive under water? Tell your parent or teacher your answer.

Sea turtles are able to hold their breath underwater. They can hold their breath from 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 earth. Turtles live on nearly every continent except Antarctica.

  • Why do you think turtles don't live in Antarctica? Discuss your answer with a parent or teacher.

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 on land can be found. The blue section shows where sea turtles can be found.

  • 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!

world turtle distribution map

Image by Sarefo, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

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

  1. Turtles are reptiles. What does it mean to be a reptile?
  2. What do turtles do to regulate their body temperature?
  3. Where do turtles lay their eggs?
  4. Where can turtles be found on Earth?

Fantastic! When you are finished writing your answers, discuss your answers with your parent or teacher. After discussing your answers, move on to the Got It? section.

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