Cycles in Nature

Change Through the Seasons

The series of stages in the growth and development of a plant or animal is its life cycle. A seed germinates, sprouting roots, stems and leaves, and eventually forms a flower in which new seeds develop. A butterfly emerges from its pupa case, drinks the sweet nectar of flowers, finds a mate and lays its eggs; the next generation will soon hatch to continue the cycle. These events repeat year after year in a pattern of ongoing change.

The life cycles of living organisms are closely tied to the seasonal cycles of the earth. Many animals – frogs, turtles, chipmunks, bats – are dormant in winter when days are short and food is scarce, while they are active in the months when sunlight and food abound. A tree stands bare of leaves through winter’s snows, but the warmth of spring sunlight encourages the buds to open and leaves to unfurl. Insects emerge to feed on the young leaves, and birds migrate northward to dine on the emerging insects. Particular stages of life cycles are often timed to coincide with specific seasonal events. During the first warm rain of springtime, salamanders migrate to ponds to mate and lay eggs. On the forest floor, early spring flowers quickly bloom and go to seed before the trees leaf out and shade them. Continue reading Cycles in Nature

Cycles in Nature – Table of Contents

Cycles in Nature – Vocabulary for Children

 

active  Keeping a daily pattern of sleeping, eating, and moving about.

adult  The full-grown life stage of an animal, when it is able to reproduce.

alarm call  A sound made by an animal that tells other animals that a predator is nearby.

alternate  When twigs and buds are single along the branch, not directly across from each other.

annual  A plant that completes its life cycle in one year, living long enough to produce seeds and then dying. Continue reading Cycles in Nature – Vocabulary for Children

Insect Life Cycles – Background

When we watch a caterpillar spinning a cocoon, or a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, we are witnessing a part of the remarkable life cycle of an insect. Insects live their lives in stages, changing form as they develop from egg to adult. In some, young and adult are so different, it is hard to believe they could be the same species. A caterpillar becomes a butterfly, a garden grub becomes a shiny beetle, a wingless creature crawling on the bottom of a pond becomes a dragonfly skimming above it. Is there a connection between insect life cycles and the incredible success of this group of animals?

Insects, members of the Class Insecta, have a hard outer skin or exoskeleton to which their muscles and tendons are attached, and that protects the soft organs inside their bodies. They grow by molting, splitting open and shedding the Continue reading Insect Life Cycles – Background

Insect Life Cycles – Activities

FOCUS: As insects develop from eggs to adult they undergo metamorphosis, their bodies changing dramatically as they mature. Most insects have complete metamorphosis with four distinct life stages including egg, larva, pupa and adult. Other insects have simple metamorphosis with only three stages, changing from egg to nymph to adult. These tiny animals must find partners to reproduce, and they use a variety of signals to find and attract mates.

Introduction: Ask the children if they’ve noticed any insect sounds outside. Why might crickets and grasshoppers be chirping at this time of year? Or, bring in a terrarium with some fresh grass and a few crickets to listen to their chirping firsthand. Be sure to release the crickets outside afterwards. Continue reading Insect Life Cycles – Activities

Insect Life Cycles – Puppet Show

Frequent Flyers

Characters: Grasshopper egg, grasshopper nymph, grasshopper adult, Monarch egg, Monarch caterpillar, Monarch chrysalis, Monarch butterfly

Props: Grass plant with egg, cotton balls on toothpicks for eggs, sign saying “Weeks Later”.

Grasshopper Egg  Oh me, oh my. I’m just a tiny egg in a big, dark, underground world.  I’m ready for a change.

Monarch Egg  I’m just a tiny egg in a big, bright sunny world. I’m ready for a change too. Continue reading Insect Life Cycles – Puppet Show

Insect Life Cycles – Standards

INSECT LIFE CYCLES ALIGNMENT WITH
NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS

The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Insect Life Cycles – Standards

Traveling Seeds – Background

Wandering through a meadow, a child stops by a jewelweed plant, on the lookout for its plump seed pods. As she reaches in to touch one, it suddenly bursts open and ejects a seed, startling and delighting her. This child is inadvertently helping with an important part of a plant’s life cycle, the dispersal of its seeds. Producing seeds for the next generation is only part of a plant’s job. It needs those seeds to reach a place where they can grow. Spring-loaded seed capsules, like those in jewelweed, are just one of the many fascinating seed dispersal mechanisms found in plants.

A seed is the fertilized, ripened ovule of a cone-bearing plant (gymnosperm) or a flowering plant (angiosperm). The seed contains an embryo, the tiny beginning of a new plant, and it is usually equipped with at least some nutrients for the Continue reading Traveling Seeds – Background

Traveling Seeds – Activities

FOCUS: After a plant flowers and produces fertile seeds, those seeds must still find a spot to grow. We’ll see what the inside of a seed looks like, how it holds all that is necessary for a new plant to grow, and explore outside to see the many different ways seeds move from place to place.

Introduction: Hold up a sock, pant leg, or shirt sleeve that has burs attached to it. Ask the class, “What is going on here? Why do seeds stick to our clothing?”

Objective: To use a model to learn the parts of a seed and their functions.

A seed has everything it needs to travel, like a backpacker. Tell the children that Continue reading Traveling Seeds – Activities

Traveling Seeds – Puppet Show

Travel Agents

Characters: Benjy Bear, Mitch Milkweed Seed, Claire Cranberry, Bertie Burdock, Sally Squirrel

Props: Brown pompom for burdock burr, basket of acorns prop

Benjy Bear  Gee, it’s a breezy fall morning.

Look at all this fluffy stuff in the air. Here’s a bit of fluff caught on a branch.

Mitch Milkweed  I’m not just a bit of fluff. I’m a traveling seed.

Bear  Oh I seed what you mean. But what’s all that fluffy white hair for? Continue reading Traveling Seeds – Puppet Show

Traveling Seeds – Standards

TRAVELING SEEDS ALIGNMENT WITH
NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS

The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Traveling Seeds – Standards

Birds on the Wing – Background

As days get shorter and cooler in the fall, birds that stay year-round begin preparing for a long, cold winter, while others get ready to migrate. Each faces challenges that seem daunting for such slight creatures. Yet birds continually amaze us with their ability to survive the harshest weather, travel incredible distances and navigate to faraway places.

Some birds are permanent residents, living year-round in one place, while others migrate twice a year, traveling between winter homes and summer breeding range. Migrating is an instinctive behavior, present in some species and not in others. Whether resident or migratory, each species has behaviors and abilities suited to its way of spending the winter.

Wintering in the north, resident birds must contend with bitter cold weather, diminished food supply and shorter days in which to forage for food. Finding Continue reading Birds on the Wing – Background

Birds on the Wing – Activities

FOCUS: Some birds migrate thousands of miles to find the food and shelter they need in winter, but other birds stay right here through the cold months. Which birds migrate and which birds stay? Birds that migrate face many challenges on their journeys, and those that stay here must cope with cold weather, shorter days, and a diminished food supply. All birds must survive this critical stage of their life cycles in order to raise families in the spring.

Introduction: What are some things children have noticed about birds recently?

PUPPET SHOW “To Fly or Not to Fly”

Objective:  To consider the different challenges faced by resident and migratory birds in winter. Continue reading Birds on the Wing – Activities

Birds on the Wing – Puppet Show

Orville’s First Flight

Characters: Orville Oriole, Chelsey Chickadee, Wilbur Wood Thrush

Props: suitcase, signs saying “That Evening,” and “Days Later,” pole with star, two surf boards.

Orville Oriole Mmm, there’s a bug, yum! And another! I know I’m putting on weight, but this cold weather’s making me ravenous. I wonder when it’s going to warm up.

Chelsey Chickadee  Warm up? Orville Oriole, you mean cool down, don’t you? Another month and there’ll be snow on the ground and ice in the ponds. Continue reading Birds on the Wing – Puppet Show

Birds on the Wing – Standards

BIRDS ON THE WING ALIGNMENT WITH
NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS

The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Birds on the Wing – Standards

Winter Ways – Background

The ever-changing cycle of seasons is one of the pleasures of living in a temperate climate. From the emergence of tender life in spring and the abundance of summer, to autumnal ripening, and then the long, cold winter, each season has its unique conditions. Survival demands that plants, animals, fungi, and even bacteria are adapted to survive all the seasons, and for most, winter is the most difficult. This might seem obvious, but the implications are important.

Because of the tilt of the northern hemisphere away from the sun in the winter, we experience shorter days and lower temperatures, often below the freezing point of water. Water is essential to life, the fluid matrix of living cells. When ice forms inside cells it not only slows down their functioning, but the sharp ice crystals can pierce cell walls, destroying them. To avoid this, many plants and Continue reading Winter Ways – Background