Grade K. Children are naturally curious about plants and animals. What child hasn’t eagerly plucked colorful flowers from planters or walkways? And who hasn’t seen the wide-eyed wonder of a child playing with a kitten, scoping out an insect, or marveling at images of whales breaching the surf? But despite an innate inquisitiveness about plants and animals, children don’t often consider that these wonders of nature are all living thingsjust like they arewith definable traits, common activities, shared and unique needs, and a dependence on a particular environment. STCKindergarten™ Exploring Plants and Animals is an 8-lesson unit that expands children’s appreciation of plants and animals as well as their awareness about how these living things all relate to each other and to the world around them.
- Living things are different from non-living things.
- Living things grow, change, die, and need things to survive.
- Plants are living things.
- Plants have similarities, such as the ability to grow and the need for water, light, and space.
- Seeds grow into plants and need similar things as mature plants do.
- Animals have similarities, such as the ability to move and the need for water, food, and shelter.
- Plants and animals have similarities, such as basic needs, the ability to grow and change, and death.
- Environments provide the resources (e.g., water, food, air, and shelter) that living things need.
- All living things, including humans, affect the environments they live in.
- Many kinds of plants and animals can share the same environment.
- Observing and describing the characteristics of living and non-living things
- Classifying living and non-living things into groups in various ways
- Observing and describing the characteristics of plants and animals
- Making comparisons between living and non-living things as well as between plants and animals
- Recording observations in words and drawings
- Explaining the reasoning behind claims and statements
- Predicting the outcomes when plants and animals have limited resources within their environments
- Planting seeds and observing them grow into seedlings and mature plants
- Handling and caring for live animals
- Making models to represent plants, animals, and environments
- Developing an interest in exploring different types of plants and animals
- Gaining an awareness of the diversity of living things
- Appreciating the importance of natural environments in the survival of all living things
- Classifying things by their characteristics and counting them
- Reinforcing the concepts of “more than,” “less than,” and “equal to”
- Timing observations and counting observed events
Lesson 1, a pre-unit assessment, invites students to brainstorm and discuss what they already know about living and non-living things and about plants and animals. Students use various figurines, photos, and videos to help them examine the differences between living and non-living things. Then they compare and contrast examples of plants and animals to define the characteristics of each. At this point, the class explores and discusses how living things, such as plants and animals, are different from non-living things. Students practice how to record scientific data and information by incorporating their observations on classroom charts and in drawings on activity sheets or prompts in their science notebooks.
In Lesson 2, students observe many kinds of plants. They learn about and draw pictures of plants that have different shapes, sizes, leaves, and colors. They also draw and make models of plants and their parts (e.g., leaves, flowers, stems, and roots). Students explore the common needs of all plants and discuss how seeds have similar needs. Students predict how seeds and plants would respond when some of their needs are not met. When students find out what happens to plants that do not get water or sunlight in Lesson 6, they will be able to compare those results to the predictions they make in this lesson.
Lesson 3 is devoted to seeds. Students expand their understanding of plants by exploring the purpose of seeds in the life cycle of plants. Students examine and draw various types of seeds and discuss how they are different and similar. They take a close look at the internal part of a seed and observe a seed sprout into a seedling. To reinforce the concept that seeds produce plants, students plant bean or alfalfa seeds and begin to care for them. Students predict how seeds would grow in different conditions (e.g., with and without water or light). Activities in this lesson lay the groundwork for future observations about plant growth. The seeds planted in Lesson 3 sprout and develop into seedlings that are examined in Lesson 6.
In Lesson 4, the focus shifts to animals. Students observe, discuss, and draw various types of animals and think about how animals live and grow. They watch a short video on the Smithsonian Exploring Plants and Animals DVD showing real animals in their natural habitats, introducing to the class the concept of animal life cycles. A fish tank is set up in the classroom to provide an opportunity to closely observe an animal as it moves, eats, finds shelter, and responds to its environment. Students are challenged to consider how the needs of the fish are similar or different to the needs of other animals and of other living things such as plants. They discover that animals, just like plants, have similar and unique characteristics and share some common characteristics with all living things.
Lesson 5 extends students’ exploration into the environments of animals. Groups of students set up small plastic bags with materials to house milkweed bugscolorful insects that the students observe and draw as the bugs move about, drink, and feed on sunflower seeds within their small classroom habitats. The activities with milkweed bugs reinforce the ideas that all living things have specific needs and the environments that living things live in provide the resources to meet those needs. Students also watch a video showing a variety of plants and animals in their native environments. This leads to class discussions about how living things must get resources from their environments but, at the same time, cause changes to occur in their environments.
Students begin Lesson 6 by looking at the predictions they made in Lesson 3 and comparing their predictions to their seedlings at this point in time. Students compare and contrast 2 different seedlings grown from alfalfa seeds and lima beans, giving them more understanding of different plant parts. Then they look at the impact on the seedlings that were deprived some of their basic needs, light or water. Finally, they complete their life cycle flipbooks.
Lesson 7 focuses on the impact of humans on their environment with a focus on trash. Students consider how reducing and recycling trash can be beneficial to both plants and animals. They also consider the interactions of humans and other animals with plants, including a demonstration of how pollution can affect plants. Finally they explore how humans use many materials from their environment and the importance of protecting those resources.
Lesson 8 serves as a post-unit assessment of the concepts learned by students throughout the unit. Students review what they know about plants and animals and create terrariums where plants and animals share the same habitat. They revisit their class KWL chart, posting new questions. Finally they explore interactions between plants and animals and consider how plants and animals depend on each other to live and grow.