Structure and Function

Equipped for Survival

The Earth is inhabited by a great variety of living organisms in a seemingly endless array of shapes and forms. From single-celled bacteria to giant sequoia trees, millipedes to moose, living things have different structures and behaviors that allow them to meet their basic needs.  A hummingbird’s long thin bill lets it reach the nectar deep inside a trumpet flower. A grass plant grows from the base of its stems rather than at the tips so it can withstand grazing or fire without harm. Looking for the connections between structure and function is an important concept in biology and can be as exciting as unraveling a mystery.

Each kind of bird or spider, tree or fern, has a particular lifestyle and habitat. Organisms differ in ways that help them to survive – to avoid predation, to gather Continue reading Structure and Function

Structure and Function – Table of Contents

Structure and Function – Vocabulary for Children

abdomen  The back end of a spider or insect, the body section behind the thorax (or cephalothorax in spiders).

adaptation  An inherited feature of a plant or animal’s body, or the way it behaves, that helps it to survive.

antenna  A pair of long, thin structures on the heads of insects and some other animals, that are important as feelers and for the sense of smell.

armor  A tough, protective covering for defense against predators. Continue reading Structure and Function – Vocabulary for Children

Spiders: Web-Builders and Wanderers – Background

Hanging under eaves, tucked in the cracks on tree bark, hidden in tall grass, spiders and webs can be found nearly everywhere you look in late summer. Not all spiders spin webs, however. Some actively hunt for prey, scurrying over dirt in the garden or ambushing pollinators visiting flowers. Whether wanderers or web weavers, spiders abound in nearly every habitat on Earth, with estimates of one million individuals living in each acre of grassy field. There are about 2,500 spider species in North America, all different and each well adapted to its role as a small but effective predator.

Spiders are arthropods, which means that they have jointed legs and hard exoskeletons, as insects do. Continue reading Spiders: Web-Builders and Wanderers – Background

Spiders: Web-Builders and Wanderers – Activities

FOCUS: Spiders come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, but they all share some specific characteristics: two body parts, a hard exoskeleton, eight legs. They all make silk, too, though not all weave webs. Here we take a close look at web spinners and wandering spiders, examine their anatomy, and consider their special adaptations. We’ll learn about their lives as small predators and scout outdoors for spiders and webs.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about spiders.

Give a variety of spiders in small jars (one spider per jar) to children to examine in small groups, and ask what they notice and wonder about them.

Materials: live spiders in clear jars with perforated lids with moist cotton ball and bit of vegetation, only one spider per jar; magnifying lenses.

SPIDERS UP CLOSE
Objective: To observe closely and compare a variety of different live spiders.

A day or two ahead of time, gather a variety of different spiders in jars with perforated lids, only one spider per jar, and include a damp cotton ball plus a piece of vegetation in each jar. Give each small group of children a few different spiders in jars to observe. Continue reading Spiders: Web-Builders and Wanderers – Activities

Spiders: Web-Builders and Wanderers – Puppet Show

Spider Olympics

Characters: Woody Woodchuck, Jumping Spider, Winifred Wolf Spider, Crab Spider, Olivia Orb-weaver

Props: goldenrod flower

Jumping Spider  One, two, three…(jumps) One, two, three…(jumps again) Better!

Woody Woodchuck  Hello there, spider! What’s with all the jumping?

Jumping Spider  Hi, Woody Woodchuck. Today’s the day of the Spider Olympics. Bet you’ve never seen so many eight-legged athletes in one place! Continue reading Spiders: Web-Builders and Wanderers – Puppet Show

Spiders: Web-builders and Wanderers – Standards

SPIDERS 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 Spiders: Web-builders and Wanderers – Standards

Tremendous Trees – Background

Towering above us, branches reaching to the sky, trees are a familiar feature of the landscape, whether a forested hillside, a busy city park, or our own backyard. In the summer, trees form a green canopy shading and cooling the ground below. In winter, they stand silently braced against the cold and snow. With some 100,000 different species worldwide, trees come in a variety of shapes and sizes and thrive in a wide range of habitats. But what makes a tree a tree?

By definition, trees are large, woody, perennial plants. From underground roots to leafy branches, each part plays an important role in the survival of the tree. Continue reading Tremendous Trees – Background

Tremendous Trees – Activities

FOCUS: Wood, leaves, bark, roots, flowers, and fruits: disassembled, these various parts don’t begin to convey the majesty of a mighty tree in full summer foliage. However, each part of the tree serves an important function that contributes to its survival. Roots reach into the soil for water and nutrients, wood provides strength for the trunk, branches hold the crown of leaves up to the sunlight. Like other living organisms, trees grow, reproduce, and die, but they are more to us than just tall woody plants: they are neighbors that grow and change with us through the years.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about trees.

Hold up a small cardboard box and tell the students that you’ve discovered a beautiful object that can turn sunlight into sugar, pump gallons of water a day, purify air, move and split rocks, change color with the season, and provide shelter and food to all sorts of animals. What do they think it is? Open the box and present the small sapling hidden inside.

Materials: cardboard box, small sapling.
Continue reading Tremendous Trees – Activities

Tremendous Trees – Puppet Show

Tree-mendous Trees

Characters: Maple Tree, Charlie Chipmunk, Sarah Sapsucker, Sammy Squirrel, Tiny Fir Tree

Maple Tree  (tapping noise) Who’s that nibbling on my toes?

Chipmunk  That was me, Maple Tree, chewing on these little roots down here.

Tree  Listen, Charlie Chipmunk, I need those roots. Look how big my trunk is, and all these branches. I couldn’t stand up without strong roots to anchor me.

Chipmunk  I’ll say they’re strong. They get into cracks in the rock, and start to grow thicker. Pretty soon the rock splits in two! Continue reading Tremendous Trees – Puppet Show

Tremendous Trees – Standards

TREMENDOUS TREES 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 Tremendous Trees – Standards

Grasses and Grains – Background

Compared with lacy ferns, showy flowers, and towering trees, the grasses seem hardly worth noticing. Yet these modest plants flourish in harsh conditions, cover much of the land masses of the world, support huge populations of grazing animals, and produce prodigious amounts of seeds – the grains that feed our livestock and us. Grasses have fascinating and unique adaptations that make them extremely resilient and set them apart from other kinds of plants.

Grasses grow just about anywhere – in fields, wetlands, saltmarshes, mountaintops, deserts, and even in shady forests. There are ten thousand species worldwide, and – in prairies, savannahs, pampas, and steppes – they cover a quarter of the earth’s land. Grasses dominate in conditions that are challenging for most other plants. They thrive in open plains that are dry and windy, lacking in shade, exposed to rain and snow, blizzards, and tornados. They are also built to survive fire and grazing by hordes of animals, from swarms of insects to herds of elephants. Continue reading Grasses and Grains – Background

Grasses and Grains – Activities

FOCUS: Grasses are hardy plants that grow over much of the earth, flourishing in harsh conditions. They are able to withstand high winds, hold onto slippery slopes, and grow back after being mowed, burned or grazed. Grasses have fascinating and unique adaptations that make them extremely resilient and set them apart from other kinds of plants.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about grasses and grains.

Give each child a grass stem with flower/seed head, and ask what children notice and wonder about their plant.

Materials: grass stems, one per child; magnifying lenses.

GRASSES UP CLOSE
Objective: To make observations about the structure of grasses and consider how these function for the plant.

Working in small groups, give each team a complete grass plant with roots, stems, leaves, and flower head. Ask each group to share one observation about their grass plant. Other groups compare to see if their grass plant has the same or similar feature(s). Continue reading Grasses and Grains – Activities

Grasses and Grains – Puppet Show

Stalking the Wild Grasses

Characters: Benjy Bear, Foxtail Grass, Crab Grass, Panic Grass

Props: hunt card; 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of flour on stiff piece of paper.

Benjy Bear  (holding up hunt card) Oh boy, I love these nature scavenger hunts, but sometimes they can be quite challenging! Hmm. It says, “Find a grass plant.” (Foxtail Grass appears) Oh, hello, are you a grass plant?

Foxtail Grass  You bet.

Bear  That was easy. Now let’s see. It says, “Look at the stem and find the nose.” The nose?! I don’t see any nose! Wait a minute, that’s silly! Plants don’t have noses! Even I know that! Continue reading Grasses and Grains – Puppet Show

Grasses and Grains – Standards

GRASSES AND GRAINS 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 Grasses and Grains – Standards

Predators and Prey – Background

What makes the fox clever and the deer swift, and why do both have a keen sense of smell?  Predators and prey face different challenges in getting their food. Predators must find their prey, chase and catch it, subdue it if it fights back, all before they eat it. Prey animals must forage for food cautiously, always on the lookout for predators. The anatomy and the behavior of predator and prey animals reflect each species’ needs and way of life.

Both predators and prey need keen senses, but the position of eyes and ears, the functioning of noses and sense of smell, can be very different. Continue reading Predators and Prey – Background