My goal in this unit is to help children understand the similarities and differences between plants and animals. As they compare plant and animal life, I have also tried to emphasize the relationships and contrasts to human life and needs, including food and water, social grouping, and growth. In addition to contrasting organisms of different forms, the unit guides children to consider some of the interdependent relationships between organisms, such as the food cycle. Both plant and animal life have practical usefulness to humans that I have tried to prompt the children to consider: what would happen if all of the animals died?
Prior to the unit, many of my students did not categorize plants as living things. Their explorations and discussions have helped them to understand that, like animals, plants have needs, have specific relationships to their environments, develop, and eventually die. Some of the activities involved include observing plants in various natural locations, dissecting plants, and growing plants in different conditions. A range of activities for animal life is also discussed, including constructing and using an ant farm, and considering the importance of animal camouflage through a color-based activity with paper "fish." To help the children build comparisons and contrasts through these activities, I have often used Venn diagrams in the unit, including a culminating diagram of plant, animal, and human needs.
I have tried to make this unit very "teacher friendly"; in addition to writing process instructions, I have included group and whole-class materials lists, as well as information on instructional time, so that teachers would be able to readily plug activities into their plans. I have also emphasized connections to math, music, and language arts. In language arts, for example, an activity of plant story writing is described, and relevant literature is listed. If you would like any further information about this unit on organisms, feel free to e-mail me.
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