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Plant & Animal Superpowers

Plant & Animal Structures and Survival

Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade

NGSS Standards covered: K-2-ETS1-1 , 1-LS3-1 , 1-LS1-2 , 1-LS1-1
In this unit, students explore how parts of plants and animals are essential for survival. Students also make observations of parents and their offspring, determining how they are similar and how their behaviors help offspring survive. Less
  1. Lessons
  2. Activity Prep
  3. Assessments

Lesson 1: Animal Structures & Survival

Find the Best Beak

In this lesson, students carry out an investigation to determine the relationship between the shape of different bird beaks and the food each bird eats. In the activity, Find the Best Beak, students experiment with long pointy beaks that are great for picking up seeds and wide flat beaks that are good for scooping. They discover that different beaks are best for different kinds of food.

Number of students:
Bird Beaks worksheet 30 copies
Black Beans (Dried)
Any dried beans will work. If you must avoid food, substitute large beads.
2 pounds
Dixie Cups (3 oz)
Each student will need 2 cups. We suggest having a few extras on-hand.
60 cups
Elbow Macaroni
If you must avoid food, substitute straws cut into pieces that are about ½” long.
2 pounds
Masking Tape
96 feet
Paper Cups (8 oz)
16 cups
Plastic Straws (Not Bendable)
Each student needs 1 straw. We suggest having a few extras on-hand.
30 straws
Prep Instructions

We suggest students work in groups of four. Homeschool students can work on their own.

This activity works best on a low pile carpet. If your classroom has a smooth floor (such as linoleum), you’ll need a bath towel to serve as the work area for each group of 4 students.

Make “Beaks”

Each student will need a “pointy beak” and a “duck beak” to experiment with.

Here’s how to make a “pointy beak”:

  • Fold a straw in half.
  • Make sure that the ends of the straws are even. (If they aren’t, trim them with scissors.)
  • Store your “beaks” in a cup so they stay folded.


Here’s how to make a “duck beak”:

  • You will use half of your Dixie cups to make “duck beaks.” Leave the other half of your Dixie cups whole as they will serve as “stomach cups” for students.
  • For half the Dixie cups, use scissors to make a cut from the lip to the base of the cup.


  • Make a matching cut on the other side of the cup.
  • Squeeze the sides together to make a beak. (Quacking is optional.)


Set Up Stations

Mark off a test area for each group of four students.

  • If you have a low-pile carpet, mark a 3’ x 3’ square with masking tape.
  • If you have hard floors, spread out a bath towel and tape down the corners.

Prepare “Bird Food” and “Rocks”

For each group, you’ll need to prepare two cups. One filled with model “bird food” and the other filled with model “rocks.”

  • Divide the 8 oz paper cups in half.
  • For half of the cups, fill each about one-third full with dried macaroni “bird food.”
  • For the other half of the cups, fill each about one-third full with dried beans “rocks.”

Separate Supplies for Easy Distribution

At the start of the activity, each student needs a worksheet, “pointy beak,” “duck beak,” and “stomach cup.” Each group also needs a cup of “bird food.”

Best Beak Supplies

Each group will need a cup of “rocks” later in the activity. You may want to organize or separate supplies for easier classroom distribution.

Read-Along Lesson 2: Animal Behavior & Offspring Survival

What’s Going On?

In this Read-Along lesson, Juan Carlos visits his grandmother who has a backyard full of ducks. The lesson includes a short exercise where students get moving by acting like ducks. If you want to extend the lesson, you can try this optional activity, What’s Going On?, where students watch videos and discover ways that animal parents help their offspring.

No activity prep.

Lesson 3: Camouflage & Animal Survival

Moth Hide and Seek

In this lesson, students make observations to construct an explanation of why camouflage is helpful to animals. In the activity, Moth Hide and Seek, students test their ability to spot camouflage moths, and then design a camouflage pattern for a moth of their own and hide it in the classroom!

Number of students:
Color A Moth printout Print 30 copies
Look For Moths worksheet 30 copies
Moths For Teachers printout Print 1 copy
Stump #2 printout Print 1 copy
Stump #3 printout Print 1 copy
Tree #1 printout Print 1 copy
Tree #2 printout Print 1 copy
Tree #3 printout Print 1 copy
Provide a variety of colors so students can create moths that camouflage in the classroom. Colored pencils or markers also work.
90 crayons
30 pairs
Glue Dots
39 dots
Prep Instructions

Prepare Your Classroom Forest Before Class

Each tree takes a wall space measuring about 32" wide by 55" tall (about the size of a door). You can build your trees on an empty wall, a bulletin board, or on a door. The activity works best if you have three different bark patterns, but if you don’t have enough space (or time) to make three trees, you can make one tree and two stumps.


To make your trees and/or stumps, follow these steps:

  • Cut out the pieces of each tree and stump by cutting on the dashed lines of the printouts. Then cut out the moths, following the instructions on the "Moths for Teachers" printouts.
  • Arrange the pieces on your wall to make trees and stumps, using glue dots or push pins to hold the paper in place. Watch this video to see how we did it.

Hide the Moths

You are going to hide paper moths for your students to find, and then your students will hide moths for you to find. Put a glue dot on the back of each moth and place it on a tree or stump — hide all nine moths. Put most of them on the bark that match, but put a few on the bark that don’t match, so that they are easy for your students to find.


Read-Along Lesson 4: Inheritance & Variation of Traits

Matchup Game

In this Read-Along lesson, Amy notices that baby animals look a lot like the adults in their families—and then discovers that she does, too! The lesson includes a short exercise where students get moving by acting like farm animals. You can extend the lesson with the optional activity, Matchup Game, where students work together to match pictures of animals with their babies.

Number of students:
Baby Animal Cards printout Print 5 copies
Parent Animal Cards printout Print 1 copy
30 envelopes
Prep Instructions

Print enough picture cards so that each student can have a parent animal or a baby animal. We suggest printing one copy of the parent animal cards and enough baby animals for the rest of the class since many babies can group with the same parent. If you have 30 students, you’ll need all 6 parent animal pictures and 24 assorted baby animal pictures. For homeschool or small classes, print out one of copy of each page, cut out the cards, and have students match mothers and babies. Cut out the pictures and put each one in its own envelope to distribute to your students.

Lesson 5: Plant Survival & Engineering

Wind-Proof Umbrella

In this lesson, students examine structures like roots, branches, and leaves that keep trees from blowing down. In the activity, Wind-Proof Umbrella, they use their observations to create their own tree-inspired umbrellas that stay up in the wind.

Number of students:
Umbrella Top printout Print 60 copies
Umbrella Top Inspiration worksheet 8 copies
30 pairs
Dixie Cups (3 oz)
30 cups
Dot Stickers
We prefer stickers because they are easier to distribute in a classroom. Tape also works.
180 stickers
Pipe Cleaners
60 pipe cleaners
Plastic Straws (Bendable)
60 straws
3 pounds
Poster Board (28" x 22")
1 sheet
Prep Instructions

Each student will create their own wind-proof umbrella, but will need a partner to help with a few steps.

Decide if You Will Buy Playdough or Make Your Own

To make your own playdough, slowly add 2½ cups water to a mixture of 5 cups of flour and 1¼ cups of salt. Stir, then knead the dough. If it’s too sticky, add more flour.

Prepare Wind Test Station

  • Make a giant fan by folding a 22” x 28” sheet of poster board accordion style. If you have a two smaller sheets of poster board, tape them together, then fold.
  • Make one reusable umbrella stand for each student by pressing clay or playdough into the bottom of a Dixie cup. The cup should be a little more than halfway full.
  • Clear a big, flat area, such as a tabletop, to serve as a test station. It should be at least 36 inches across—big enough to hold four umbrellas without touching.

We've provided Umbrella Top Inspiration sheets to help students who get frustrated when they try to improve their umbrellas. We suggest you let students try on their own, providing Inspiration Sheets only to those who need help.

Read-Along Lesson 6: Plant Movement & Survival

Plants on the Move

In this Read-Along lesson, Jin plants some sunflowers in a sunny spot and some in a shady spot, watches to see which grow best, and then figures out why. The lesson includes a short exercise where students stand up and pretend to be sunflowers, turning their faces to the sun as young sunflowers do. You can extend the lesson with the optional activity, Plants on the Move, where students observe that plants respond to light by bending toward the light source.

Number of students:
1 knife
Scotch Tape
Only needed if your box lets light in.
1 roll
Aluminum Foil
Only needed if your box lets light in.
10 inches
Cardboard Box (12x12x11")
1 box
Soft-Stemmed Plant
1 plant
Prep Instructions

As an optional activity, we suggest having students observe and discuss how plants respond to light.

If you like, you can grow your own experimental plant by planting bean, sunflower, or corn seeds a week before you experiment. Buying a bean seedling or an herb such as thyme will also work.


Get your box ready by cutting a hole that’s about two inches square in one top corner. Hold the box up to the light and check for any other places the light might get in. If there are holes other than the one you cut, tape aluminum foil over them since foil is opaque and it won’t let any light through. Make sure your box is large enough so when your plant is a few inches tall, the whole thing will still to fit inside the box.