Living & Non-Living

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Title: Living and Non-Living
(Note: This is a one day lesson designed for Mrs. Carralís 2nd Grade Bilingual class at Grant Elementary School, Trenton, NJ.)

Observation or Question which initiated this Investigation:
The students went on a walk/field trip in the schoolís playground to collect living (or once living) and non-living objects for identification and classification purposes.  After collecting the objects, the students participated in a discussion with our cooperating teacher in which they distinguished between and identified characteristics of living, once living, and non-living objects.

Goal for Students:
One goal is to identify one or more living (or once living) and non-living things through the use of observational skills and the five senses.  A secondary goal is to develop descriptive vocabulary for identifying characteristics of matter.  After categorizing items, the students will need to be able to explain why something falls into that category (e.g. what makes something alive?).

Technique for introducing the Investigation for the students:
First, we will show the students two items from the classroom (for example, a stuffed animal and a leaf or stick) and have them verbally describe characteristics of those items.  We will pass the objects around the classroom and write and explain the descriptive words on the board.

Rationale behind using this particular approach to launch students:
This activity will connect with their prior knowledge and observations about the living (or once living) and non-living items they found during their walk on the playground.

Basic Observations you have made regarding this Investigation:

bulletWhy is one rock smooth and the other bumpy/rough?
bulletSome things we find outside come from nature (living) and some are man-made (non-living).
bulletThere are many differences between living and non-living things.

List several Questions which could be addressed by this Investigation:

bulletWill two different students describe the same object in the same way?
bulletHow many different ways can you describe an object by touching it?  (For example, shape, weight, length, and texture)
bulletWhat are the basic/key characteristics of living/non-living/once-living things and how can we confirm that something fits in a given category?

Materials needed:

bulletShoe box,
bulletVarious fruits and vegetables (for example, bananas, carrots, etc.),
bulletItems students have previously collected from outside (for example, leaves, rocks, sticks, flowers, bugs, etc.)

Working Hypothesis:
By using the five senses to describe an object, we will utilize our observational skills to try to determine what the object is and classify it as living or non-living.

Methods used in determining the validity of your Hypothesis:
Take one object and hold it up for the class to see.  Next, have one volunteer come up and place the object in his/her hand.  Using descriptive vocabulary, the student will explain to the class what he/she feels, sees, hears, etc.  The words that the student uses to describe the object will be written on the board.  When the student cannot describe the object any further, the rest of the class will be given the opportunity to discuss/analyze its characteristics (size, shape, movement, reproductive capabilities, consumption of food, etc.) to determine if it can be classified as living, non-living, or once living.  After students accurately classify each object, we will write the objectís name in the columns of the table written on the board as living (or once living) or non-living.  Repeat the whole process using a different object each time.

Variables which need to be controlled:
The students cannot see the objects prior to starting this activity as that might bias their judgment as to what is being described.  In addition, a good balance of living (or once living) and non-living objects is needed to ensure that students will have a good idea of what it is like to feel, describe, and identify by sight living (or once living) and non-living things.

How will you record your Results? (List at least two ways to produce data in a form which can be discussed and analyzed.)
We will make a table on the board to distinguish between which objects are living (or once living) and non-living.  Also, we will list the descriptive vocabulary words on the board.

Show your Results:


The Table:

Living Non-living
Flower Rock
Grass Plastic candy wrapper
Pine cone Pen
Leaf Golf ball / ping pong ball

Descriptive Words:
Rough         Hard
Smooth       Squishy
Hairy           Jagged
Fuzzy           Fluffy
Soft              Small
Bumpy          Large
Round          Heavy
Sharp           Light weight
Long

 

Was your Hypothesis supported, or not?
How can you tell?

The classroom we are in at Grant School is bilingual and we do not know yet the extent of their English vocabulary.  However, if we see that they are correctly using the words that have been put on the board we can assess their understanding.  We are confident that the students will grasp the concept of how to describe, identify, and categorize most of the objects into once living and non-living things by using all of their five senses.

(Analysis) Discuss what your Data means:
By having students participate in this activity, we will have an opportunity to assess their observational skills, which is key to the scientific approach/procedures.  The students will learn that in order to classify an object as living, non-living, or once-living, they need to feel, see, hear, etc. to describe the object.  They may need to dissect it, smell it, compare it to other objects in a species, etc.

What would be some follow-up Questions which were not resolved by your experimentation?
What are paper and rubber balls classified as?  We know that paper comes from pulp which in turn comes from a tree.  Does that mean paper was once living?  The same question applies to rubber as rubber comes from rubber trees.

What improvements would you make in your Experimental Design?
One improvement would be to find a way to have all students involved throughout the whole process instead of one student at a time come up and describe the object.  One way to approach this would be to make smaller groups of 4 and give them a set of their own objects.

 

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