We Explore Living Things

Students explore similarities and differences between living things and investigate plants, trees, and animals. They work together to build a temporary indoor home for a small animal, and create a tree museum and a mural of living things. 

My Pet Tree Albert highlights the life science through a story about  a girl who proves her pet tree is a living thing just like her friends' animal pets.

Lesson Plan Overview:

Activity 1: Exploring Outdoors

Children think and talk about what a scientist is and are introduced to We Explore Living Things. They make predictions about the living and nonliving things they think they will find in an outdoor area. During outdoor time, they explore and observe a designated area using their senses of sight, hearing, smell, and touch. They describe and draw some of the living and nonliving things they find. Back inside, children share and describe what they found, revisit their predictions, and share their ideas about the characteristics of living things. 

Home Connection: The Home Activity encourages children to have conversations with family members about their outdoor explorations and the living and nonliving things they observed in the school setting. Family members are invited to explore at home with their children and talk together about some of the living and nonliving things they find. 

Activity 2: Planting Bean Seeds

Children share their beginning ideas about seeds and plants and what seeds need in order to sprout and grow. They dissect a lima bean seed and then plant lima or pea bean seeds in soil in preparation for observing their germination and growth over time. They draw their predictions of what they think their plants will look like.

Home Connection: Children take some seeds home to plant with their families. They talk about what the seeds need in order to grow. They plant the seeds and make plans to take care of them and observe their growth. On the Home Activity Page, children draw a picture of themselves planting the seed with their family member(s).

Activity 3: Observing Indoor and Outdoor Plants

Children investigate a variety of indoor and outdoor plants and their parts. They observe and collect data on their plants in small groups and then compare plants, looking for parts they have in common and how those parts are similar and different. Each child draws one plant and, labels the parts they identify, with support, including stems, leaves, roots, flowers, and seeds. They are introduced to the idea that each part helps the plant, and in the whole group, they share their ideas about how. 

Home Connection: Children extend their thinking about the parts of plants to thinking about their own body parts. On the Home Activity Page, they draw a picture of themselves and talk with family members about how their arms, legs, and other body parts help them do the things they do every day. 

Activity 4: Investigating Trees

Children begin a tree investigation that will continue through the end of the unit. They participate in an interactive reading of My Pet Tree, Albert by Stephen Krensky. Then they go outdoors in small groups to collect and record data about four trees near the school. They display their tree photos, representations, natural artifacts, and books about trees in a “tree museum” they create in the classroom. Over time, children visit the outdoor trees and the tree museum, browse books about trees, and think about how trees are similar to and different from other plants and living things.

Home Connection: The Home Activity encourages children to investigate a tree near their home. They talk with family members about the tree, its parts, and some of the things they find in, on, or around the tree. 

Activity 5: Observing Growing Bean Plants

Children closely observe and collect data about their bean seedlings and how they are growing and changing. They generate ideas about what the plants will need in order to continue to grow, and with support, they plan an experiment to investigate how their bean plants will grow under different conditions. They talk about other living things that grow and change and what they need.

Home Connection: The Home Activity encourages children to continue to think about how living things grow and change. They think and talk with their families about living things at home that they have observed growing and changing, including themselves. 

Activity 6: Looking for Animals Outdoors

Children talk about the animals they observed during previous outdoor explorations, including animals they found in, on, and around trees. They revisit a designated outdoor area, this time with a specific focus on observing and representing the characteristics and behaviors of squirrels, birds, worms, insects, and other animals they find. They begin to notice that animals use their bodies and specific body parts to do such things as find food, eat, hide, and move from one place to another. 

Home Connection: The Home Activity invites children to have a conversation with family members about their own body parts and how people use them during their daily activities. They talk about how body parts such as hands, arms, legs, and feet help them do things such as eat, draw, play, and dance. 

Activity 7: Setting Up and Maintaining a Terrarium 

Children investigate the needs of an outdoor animal and think about what kind of home the animal has and how that home meets its needs. They set up a terrarium as a temporary home for an animal that will recreate its outdoor environment and meet the animal’s needs indoors. 

Home Connection: The Home Activity invites children to think and talk with family members about what they need to live and grow and how their needs get met in their homes. They draw a picture of themselves in their homes. 

Activity 8: Focused Animal Investigations

Children closely observe an animal in the classroom terrarium and investigate its physical characteristics and behavior. They describe and represent the animal’s body and body parts and make inferences about how the animal’s body parts and their characteristics help the animal get the things it needs. 

Home Connection: The Home Activity invites children to think and talk with their family members about how they use their own bodies to meet their needs at home. They draw a picture of themselves using their bodies to do a daily activity. 

Activity 9: Investigating Animal Senses

Children think and talk about how they have used their senses throughout the exploration to observe living and nonliving things indoors and outdoors. They do a brief sensory exploration and are introduced to the idea that all animals have sensory tools that help them get information from the world around them. They investigate how worms respond to light and to different surface materials and make inferences from their observations about worms’ sensory tools. They do research using a book or video clips to learn more. 

Home Connection: The Home Activity invites children to talk with their families about their sense of taste and how they use it to taste the flavors of different foods. They draw a picture of themselves eating their favorite foods at home, and describe how they taste.

Activity 10: Creating a Mural of Living Things (Part 1)

Children reflect on their outdoor experiences and begin to create a mural of the outdoor environment by painting the sky, earth, and a focus tree. In the process, they review images of the outdoor environment using photos, their drawings, and books they have read and browsed during the exploration. They think and talk about the characteristics of the outdoor environment, including the colors of the sky, earth, and the focus tree. 

Activity 10: Creating a Mural of Living Things (Part 2)

Children continue working on the mural of the outdoor environment by adding details to the earth and sky and making and adding drawings and images of the living and nonliving things they have observed. In the process, they review images of plants and animals using photos, their drawings, and books they have read and browsed during the exploration. They think and talk about the characteristics, needs, and habitats of living things. 

Home Connection: The Home Activity invites children to talk with family members about ways that people in families depend on one another; children then draw a picture of their family together.

Kit Materials

Items to collect to support the exploration. Most are standard preschool materials.

Provided in Classroom Kit - Coming Soon!

Drawing paper

Magnifying glasses

Chart paper

Small plastic shovels

Poster board

Large craft sticks

Markers, crayons, and colored pencils in colors that reflect the wide variety in nature

Plastic trays

Paints (and brushes and bowls for mixing)

Plastic bug boxes

Easel paper

Medium-sized plastic terrarium with lid

Glue

Potting soil or soil collected outdoors

Plastic wrap

Cardboard plates

Newspaper or other table/floor coverings

Small spray bottles

Yarn, string, or Hula hoops

Small paper bags

Clipboards for drawing outdoors (may be teacher-made with heavy cardboard and elastic to hold paper in place)

1 bag dry lima bean seeds

Safety scissors

Lima beans or pea bean seed packets

Black construction paper

8-oz paper cups

Nonstandard measuring tools (unifix cubes, large paper clips, blocks, ribbon)

Small flashlights

Paper towel

Masking tape

Earthworms 

Grocery-sized paper bags

Variety of indoor and outdoor plants, 4-5 for each group

All 4 AWIM PreK Children's Books

Sheets or blankets to sit on outdoors

Downloadable Curriculum and Supporting Files

Objects and materials that make a distinct sound (e.g., bell, whisle), have a distinct odor (e.g., bar of soap, scented candle), or have a distinct taste (healthy snack - banana, apple slice)

 

The following books all have connections to activities in the We Explore Living Things exploration:

SCIENTISTS/SCIENCE
Living Things and Nonliving Things: A Compare and Contrast Book by Kevin Kurtz
Look by Tana Hoban 
Look Again by Tana Hoban 
What Is a Scientist? by Barbara Lehn

THE FIVE SENSES/ANIMAL SENSES
My Five Senses by Aliki 
My Five Senses by Margaret Miller 
Sight, Hearing, Smell, Touch, and Taste by Maria Rius
Animal Senses by Pamela Hickman
I Have a Sister—My Sister Is Deaf by Jeanne Whitehouse Peterson
The Listening Walk by Paul Showers 
Five for a Little One by Chris Raschka
Luna and the Big Blur: A Story for Children Who Wear Glasses by Shirley Day 

SEEDS
Berries, Nuts, and Seeds by Diane Burns
One Bean by Anne Rockwell
Ten Seeds by Ruth Brown
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

PLANTS/PLANT-BASED FOODS
Plant by David Burnie 
Plant (DK Eyewitness Books) by David Burnie
Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert 
The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin
The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons
Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie by Jill Esbaum
My Very First Book of Food by Eric Carle
The Noisy Book by Margaret Wise Brown 

TREES
Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Trees and Peterson Field Guides: Western Trees by George Petrides
The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups by Gina Ingoglia
Peterson First Guide to Trees by Roger Tory Peterson
Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Trees by Patricia Daniels
National Audubon Society First Field Guide, Trees by Marjorie Burns
Trees, Leaves, and Bark by Diane Burns
The Oak Inside the Acorn by Max Lucado
Tree for All Seasons by Robin Bernard 
My Pet Tree, Albert by Stephen Krensky

GROWTH AND CHANGE
Watch Me Grow Duckling by DK Publishing
Watch Them Grow by Linda Martin
See How They Grow Puppy by DK Publishing
From Egg to Chicken by Anita Ganeri
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Do You Know Which One Will Grow? by Susan Shea

HOMES/HOMES FOR ANIMALS
A House Is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman 
The Very Best Bed by Rebekah Raye

ANIMALS /WILD ANIMALS/OUTDOOR ANIMALS
Peterson’s First Guide to Insects of North America by Christopher Leahy
Peterson’s First Guide to Urban Animals by Sarah Landry
In a Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming
Whales Passing by Eve Bunting
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle
Annie and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett 
Salamander Room by Anne Mazer 
Can I Have a Stegosaurus, Mom, Can I, Please? by Lois Grambling
Trout Are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre

BIRDS
About Birds, A Guide for Children by Cathryn and John Sill
Birds, Nests, and Eggs by Mel Boring
Peterson’s First Guide to Birds of North America by Roger Tory Peterson

WORMS
Wiggling Worms at Work by Wendy Pfeffer
Wonderful Worms by Linda Glaser
An Earthworm’s Life by John Himmelman 
There Is a Hair in My Dirt: A Worm’s Story by Gary Larson
Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin

COLOR
Color by Ruth Heller
Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni
The Mixed-Up Chameleon by Eric Carle 

 

Digital Resources

Introduction

Science Notes for Teachers: Insects and Spiders:
Website: NatGeo Kids site “Insects”

Science Notes for Teachers: Pillbugs:
Website: Pacific Northwest National Library: What about Pillbugs?

Science Notes for Teachers: Garden Snails:
Website: Snail World’s Garden Snail

Science Notes for Teachers: Earthworms
Website: National Geographic Earthworm

Activity 1

Classroom Activity: Step 26
Video: The Tools of a Naturalist
NOTE: This video shows a girl briefly lick the leaf of a tree!

Extension Activities: Language/Literacy: Singing about the Senses
Video: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
 

Activity 2

Extension Activities: Science: Planting in Water
Video: How to Grow a Bean Plant in a Jar from the DadLab

Extension Activities: Science: Planting Seeds, Bulbs, and Tubers
Video: How to Grow Potatoes Indoors from The Earth Facts

Extension Activities: Science: Sharing Books in Spanish Online
The Carrot Seed (La semilla de sanahoria) by Ruth Krauss: English
The Carrot Seed (La semilla de sanahoria) by Ruth Krauss: Spanish

The Tiny Seed (La semillita) by Eric Carle: Spanish

Extension Activities: STEM: Make a Bird Feeder
Website: PBSLearning Media: Bird Feeder Resources

Website: Audubon: Make an Orange Feeder for Orioles

Extension Activities: STEM: Counting Backwards: Ten Seeds by Ruth Brown

Activity 3

Materials: Teacher
Website: Earth Kind Landscaping, Common Poisonous Plants and Plant Parts

Step 9Image of plant parts
Licensed under CC BY-ND 3.0.

Activity 4

Connections Activities: Language/Literacy: Reading a Tree Poem
Website: PoemHunter.com, Trees by Harry Behn

Connections Activities: Performing Arts: Sing a Tree Song
Songs: Songs for Teaching, The Green Grass Grew All Around

Activity 5

Preparation
Video: Everything Grows by Raffi
Written lyrics: Everything Grows by Raffi
Video: Lima Bean Timelapse (30 seconds)
Video: How to Grow a Bean Plant in a Jar? By DADLab (2 minutes)

Extension Activities: Science: Connecting Families to Children’s Learning about Plants
Website: PBS Parents: Raising Kids Who ThriveWebsite: PBS Parents: Explore Plants with Your 4-year-old
Website: PEEP and the Big Wide World:
http://www.peepandthebigwideworld.com/
http://www.peepandthebigwideworld.com/es/los-padres/activities/by-theme/#act-7

Extension Activities: Performing Arts: Singing about Growing Things
Song: Everything Grows by Raffi

Activity 6

MATERIALS

Videos (Mammals)
Squirrel eating
Rabbit eating
Baby foxes groomed and fed by mother
Chipmunk grooming itself
Chipmunk storing peanuts

Videos (Birds)
Kingfisher fishing and eating
Grebe fishing
Duckling catching flies
Sparrows eating
Sparrow in tree
Tree swallows and Eastern bluebird cleaning themselves, singing, and flying
Eastern bluebird nest
Mallard preening

Videos (Insects)
Grasshopper on a picnic table

Videos (Other)
Pillbugs
Snails

Images (Mammals)
Red squirrel feeding
Rabbit grooming itself
Chipmunk eating

Images (Birds)
Bird eating berry
Bird eating insect
Mallard preening
Bird in flight

Preparation
Video: Minibeast Adventure with Jess—Bugs in the Garden (60 min)
Video: Minibeast Adventure with Jess—Are You Afraid of Spiders? (15 min)
Video: Minibeast Adventures with Jess—Holding a Millipede (14 min)

Extension Activities: Science: A Home for Pillbugs and Snails
Video: Carolina Biological: Critters in the Classroom: Pillbugs
Video: How to Care for Garden Snails

Extension Activities: Science: Connecting to Families
Website: Peep and the Big Wide World: Anywhere Activities: English

Website: Peep and the Big Wide World: Anywhere Activities: Spanish

Extension Activities: STEM: Considering Bird Beaks
Video: The Cornell Lab: K–12 Materials and Professional Development for Educators

Connection Activities: Language/Literacy: Make a Classroom Animal Book
Read-aloud: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

Connections Activities: Language/Literacy: Sing Animal Songs
Lyrics and Music: Songs for Teaching, Songs about Bugs, Insects, Spiders, and Slugs
Lyrics and Music: I Had a Cat by Raffi
Video: Down by the Bay by Raffi
Video: Six Little Ducks by Raffi

Activity 7

Learning Goals: Teacher Tip:
Website: Worms4Earth: How to Raise Earthworms

Preparation:
Video: Worms for Kids (3 minutes)
Video: How to Build a Pop Top Terrarium

Extension Activities: STEM: A Visit to an Animal’s House
Video: SquirrelHouse.com Webcam
Video: The Cornell Lab, Hellgate Ospreys Webcam

Activity 8

Preparation:
Video: Worms for Kids (3 minutes)

Extension Activities: STEM: Make a Compost Bin
Website: Gardening Know-How, Composting Ideas for Children

Connection Activities: Worm Poems
"The Worm”
 by Ralph Bergengren

Activity 9

Classroom Activity: Step 20
Video: Animal Senses – Taste, Lara Blom (8 min)
Video: Animal Senses – Sight, Lara Blom (22 min)
Video: Animal Senses – Touch, Lara Blom (5 min)
Video: Animal Senses – Hearing, Lara Blom g (18 min)
Video: Animal Senses – Smell, Lara Blom (8 min)

Activity 10, Part 1

Preparation for Part 1
Website: Unsplash: Sky

Extension Activities: Science: Growing a Tree
Website: wikiHow: How to Grow an Oak Tree from an Acorn

Connections Activities: Visual Arts: Looking at Artwork
Website: Conservapedia, World-Famous Paintings

Part 2

Connections Activities: Language/Literary: Singing about the Earth

Activity 10, Part 2

Connections Activities: Language/Literary: Singing about the Earth
Video with lyrics: Big Beautiful Planet in the Sky

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