Elephant Ears—African or Asian?

Elephant Ears—African or Asian? lesson plan

How can you tell an Asian elephant from an African elephant? Discover distinct differences, and similarities, between the species.

  • 1.

    If you met up with an elephant, would you know whether it was an African or Asian elephant? Find out how these endangered species are alike and different. Which is bigger? How are their heads and backs shaped? What is different about the texture and shape of their trunks?

  • 2.

    You might notice that the African elephant’s ears are shaped like the continent of Africa and are bigger, growing up to 6 ft (1.8 m). An Asian elephant’s ears look a bit like India and are somewhat smaller, about 5 ft (1.5 m). Elephants have a unique system of cooling off. They flap their ears to generate a breeze, but more than that the blood vessels in their ears are close to the surface so they cool off quicker than the rest of their body. No two elephants have the same blood vessel patterns in their ears, either.

  • 3.

    Now that you are becoming an elephant expert, show what you know about their differences and similarities in a 3-D (bas-relief) picture. Outline the two elephant species with Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils. The colors erase easily if you make a mistake! Be sure to label which elephant is which.

  • 4.

    With Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils, draw the elephants’ features, such as small eyes, wrinkly skin, and useful truck.

  • 5.

    Color white Crayola Model Magic® with color from a black Crayola Gel Marker. Blend to mix a gray elephant-skin color. Shape one African and one Asian elephant ear. Air-dry the ears. With Crayola School Glue, connect the ears to the correct elephants. For


  • Students research two elephant species, Asian and African, both of which are endangered.
  • Students identify the differences and similarities between the two species.
  • Students graphically illustrate the two species in mixed media for a rich presentation.


  • Study the unique characteristics of elephant skin and trunks. Become a true fan of these remarkable creatures.
  • Research numbers about an elephant’s life: amount of food and water consumed in a day, length of gestation, weight, height, and life expectancy. Compare that data to other mammals including human beings.
  • Elephants also use their ears to communicate. Try making some life-size flaps for yourself and see if you can figure out how elephants communicate. What other unique ways do elephants communicate?
  • Both the African and Asian elephant are on the endangered species list. Find out why their populations are decreasing and what measures are being taken to protect them.
  • Elephants play an important part in the mythology and folklore of both Asia and Africa. Read some original stories.