Cycles in Nature


Change Through the Seasons

The series of stages in the growth and development of a plant or animal is called 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 out as caterpillars, ready for the next phase of their life 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. 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 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’s 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? 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 go through complete metamorphosis with four distinct life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Other insects go through 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.

Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about insect life cycles.

Give a variety of insects in various stages of their life cycle in jars to children to examine in small groups, and ask what they notice and wonder about them.

Materials: a variety of live insects in various stages of their life cycle collected in clear jars with lids, magnifying lenses.

Objective: To observe and compare the life stages in a variety of insect species, looking for patterns and sorting by type of life cycle.

Ahead of time, mount each Piece it Together Puzzle on a different colored backing. Place two different puzzles at each of three stations. Continue reading Insect Life Cycles – Activities

Insect Life Cycles – Puppet Show

Frequent Flyers

Characters: Grasshopper Egg (under grass plant), Grasshopper Nymph, Grasshopper Adult, Monarch Egg (on leaf), Monarch Caterpillar, Monarch Chrysalis, Monarch Butterfly.

Props:  small pompoms  to glue onto egg puppets, “Weeks Later” sign, “Days Later” sign.

Grasshopper Egg  Oh me, oh my. I’m just a tiny egg down under the soil. I’m ready for a change.

Monarch Egg  I’m just a tiny egg, here under this leaf. I’m ready for a change, too.

Grasshopper Egg  I wonder what I’ll be when I hatch. Maybe a buzzy bee, or a dragonfly. Continue reading Insect Life Cycles – Puppet Show

Insect Life Cycles – 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 and touches 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 of jewelweed are just one of the many fascinating mechanisms plants use to disperse their seeds.

A seed is the fertilized, ripened ovule of a cone-bearing plant (gymnosperm) or a flowering plant (angiosperm). Continue reading Traveling Seeds – Background