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Building Blocks of Science® A New Generation: Discovering Animals

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Grade 1. During Discovering Animals, students explore, sort, compare, and experience the similarities, differences, and needs of animals. Live snails and worms encourage students to observe carefully, use a hand lens, draw what they see, mimic movement, compare parents and offspring, and build on their intuitive ideas about the needs of animals. Sorting models provides students with multiple opportunities to compare themselves both to the model animals and to those living in the classroom.

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Grade 1. During Discovering Animals, students explore, sort, compare, and experience the similarities, differences, and basic needs of animals. Live pond snails and redworms encourage students to observe carefully, look more closely with a hand lens, draw what they see, mimic movement, discover how parents and offspring are alike and different, and build on their intuitive ideas about the basic needs of animals. Sorting a selection of models provides students with multiple opportunities to compare themselves both to the model animals and to those taking up residence in their classroom.

The Discovering Animals unit addresses the following standards:
Next Generation Science Standards
Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS1.A: Structure and Function
LS1.B: Growth and Development of Organisms
LS1.D: Information Processing
LS3.A: Inheritance of Traits
LS3.B: Variation of Traits

Engineering Practices
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Crosscutting Concepts
Structure and Function

Common Core State Standards
Language Arts

FS.1.2 c
L.1.5 a, b, c

American Association for the Advancement of Science Benchmarks
Diversity of Life

  • Some animals and plants are alike in the way they look and in the things they do, and others are very different from one another.


  • There is variation among individuals of one kind within a population.
  • Offspring are very much, but not exactly, like their parents and like one another.


  • Magnifiers help people see things they could not see without them.
  • Most living things need water, food, and air.

Interdependence of Life

  • Animals eat plants or other animals for food and may also use plants (or even other animals) for shelter and nesting.
  • Living things are found almost everywhere in the world. Different kinds can be found according to location.

Flow of Matter and Energy

  • Plants and animals both need to take in water. In addition, animals need to take in food, while plants need light.

Lesson-by-Lesson Summary
Lesson 1: What Is an Animal?

Students begin their study of animals by discussing their own prior knowledge. Then they examine a diverse set of animal models. They describe the physical appearance of the animals, identify body parts, and then work to sort and classify the collection based on different attributes.

Lesson 2: Where Do Animals Live?
In Lesson 2, students identify parts of their own bodies and discuss how they use them. They compare their anatomical structures to those of the animal models and, noting the structural diversity in body parts, recognize that different animals live in different environments. Students then go outside to look for animals living in their own local habitat. They record their observations and begin to keep a list of the creatures they find.

Lesson 3: What Do Animals Need To Live?
Continuing to draw comparisons between themselves and animals, students identify their need for food, water, air, and shelter, and extend this understanding to determine that these are also essential requirements for animals. They search for evidence of water, food, and shelter outside and determine whether animals can have their basic needs met in their local environment.

Lesson 4: Observing Worms
Lesson 4 introduces students to the first set of classroom animals: redworms. Students observe the worms closely, using hand lenses. They note the appearance and movements of the creatures, take measurements using pipe cleaners, and observe how the worms react to light. After placing the redworms in group terrariums, students feed and care for the animals and observe their behavior over several days. They also go outside to search for worms.

Lesson 5: Observing Pond Snails
Lesson 5 presents students with pond snails, which are aquatic rather than terrestrial organisms. Students observe snails using hand lenses, take measurements, and discuss what they need to survive. They help construct a class aquarium to house the snails, adding food and aquatic plants to the watery environment. They search outdoors for the animals’ close relatives, land snails and slugs, as well as other creatures, and continue to add to their list of local wildlife.

Lesson 6: Animals Grow Up Too
Students view a series of photographs that depict human life stages and use these photographs to talk about how people change and grow. They then examine two sets of soft toy animals, bears and owls, which represent examples of parents and their offspring. Students determine that animal babies are often very similar, but not identical, to their parents. They search for evidence of young and immature animals in the classroom habitats and discuss how parents might care for their offspring.

Lesson 7: Animals All Around Us
To conclude the unit, students use their firsthand knowledge of the classroom animals to make comparisons. They recognize that humans and animals share many similarities, despite their differences. The students review their own observational notes to create a class book that depicts the animals they have discovered living all around them.

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