Investigation Sequence


Living Organisms

Written by:

Robert Sweetland                 Date March 2005

Focus Questions

What is living?
What makes something living?
What do living things do that non living can't do?


Content: Earth, Physical, & Life

Life - Living organisms
All living organisms use metabolize food for energy, move, respire, use water, reproduce their own kind, respond to the environment (sensitivity), grow, excrete waste, require nutrition.
All living organisms have basic needs, (animals need air, water, food, and shelter (suitable environmental factors), freedom from invading organisms; plants need air, water, nutrients, light, and shelter (suitable environmental factors), freedom from invading organisms).
Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs can be met.
Something is either alive or not alive.

Cross cutting concepts


Science Practice

Scientific investigations can be with familiar objects.
Questions can be answered by organizing objects and or events to conduct a fair test, observe the results, and create reasons to explain cause and effects of different happenings (interactions).
Recording observations helps to remember specific information.
Observations are used to collect information to reason with and create explanations.
When people disagree on explanations for an observation they usually make more observations to refine their explanations and reconsider their reasoning.
Observation, creativity, and logical argument are used to explain how things work.

Personal, Social, Technology, Nature of Science, History


Background information

Professional development questions:
What did you learn from this experience as a teacher?
What is important to remember for next year or to share with other teachers?
What did you learn about children?
What concerns do you have about this activity with children?
How can you make this experience better for children?

Activity Sequence

Exploration Activity
Show students three objects: 1. non living (rock), 2. animal (class room organism hamster, fish..), and 3. plant (class room or playground grass, tree, philodendron)
Ask the students if each is alive and what reasons they have for believing they are or are not alive.
List all students' suggestions for each object in a table with at least three columns (one for each object)

Invention Activities
Activities that provide students with examples and non examples of living organisms for students to observe.
Continual discussion on what do living things have and do that we all agree with and recording of ideas in a list.
Continual discussion on what questions can we ask to find what living organisms are and need. (Do all living organisms have the same needs? How can we determine what living organisms need? How do living organisms get what they need? What happens if they don't? What living organisms can we observe? )
Growing plants without dirt. Cuttings, bulbs, roots in water.
Germinating seeds without dirt.
Growing plants with and without light.
Grow plants through mazes from dark to light.
Grow plants with viewable roots and turn roots to see what happens to their growth.
Observing the three objects over time and draw and list their properties.
Book or video about Jane Goodall and how she watched a chicken lay an egg when she was young and later chimps.
Find animals and stay with them, draw, video,take pictures, record and describe characteristics and changes. Don't disturb or harm living organisms and our environment. Be safe. Keep a regular schedule to observe. What would be a good plan to study organisms near where you live? Create questions to answer. Do dogs and squirrels have the same needs? Do pets and wild animals have the same needs? How can we find out: What happens to the philodendron if it doesn't get what it needs? What can we study in our classroom and around our school? Discuss how to observe and record the observations. Magnifying glasses.. Share plans, Conduct the study. Have students look at their results and answer the question, How well did your plan work? How could you improve the plan to get more information? Could the question be changed to find or learn more?
Think about what other living organisms could be studied to help answer your question? How often should they be observed? What evidence needs to be collected to use to help answer the question? Where else is information that can be used to answer the question?
Select a lab form or create one (research question, where to observe, what to observe, what to record during each observation, what we would like to learn, how we will share the findings with others.
What was discovered about living organisms? Review all previous questions and select pertinent ones to discuss.

Extension Activity
What would happen if living organisms didn't get what they need? What if they did? How do living organisms effect each other? Can there be both good and bad effects? What other questions would be worth investigating?

Activity Descriptions


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes