Open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science.

Science curriculum for K—5th grades.

90 sec
  • Hands-on lead students in the doing of science and engineering.
  • NGSS-aligned and Common Core make the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards and support Common Core.
  • Less prep, more learning prep in minutes not hours. Captivate your students with short videos and discussion questions.

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Plant & Animal Secrets

Plant & Animal Needs

Kindergarten, 1st Grade

NGSS Standards covered: K-ESS3-3 , K-ESS2-2 , K-ESS3-1 , K-LS1-1
This unit helps students develop the concept that animals and plants need things in order to survive, and their lives are all about meeting those needs… it’s the secret to why they do the many strange and wonderful things that they do! Knowing how they meet their needs can even help students find plants and animals near them. Less
  1. Lessons
  2. Activity Prep
  3. Assessments

Mystery 1: Animal Needs: Food

Eat Like an Animal

In this Mystery, students observe animal behaviors and work to discover a pattern: all animals seek food in order to survive. The activity, Eat Like an Animal, includes physical movement in which students act out animal behaviors, pretending to be quail scratching in the dirt, raccoons wading in the water, and woodpeckers pecking a log.

Prep Instructions

This activity does not require supplies.

Make sure students have enough space to move around as they pretend to be different animals in the forest.

Since there’s so little prep for this activity, we recommend you also do one of the activities in the Extensions section. To understand what animals need, it’s important that children have a chance to observe them. You can provide that opportunity by attracting birds with a bird feeder, taking your class on a nature walk or field trip, or having your students observe animals through videos.

Read-Along Mystery 2: Animal Needs: Shelter

Nature Nuggets

In this Read-Along Mystery, Sofia wonders where animals live and goes for a walk in the woods to find out. The Mystery includes a short exercise where students pretend to be squirrels and learn about their habitats. You can extend the lesson with the optional activity, Nature Nuggets, where students explore other animal homes.

Prep Instructions

This activity does not require supplies.

As an optional activity, we suggest having your students view a one-minute video of animals at home and then discuss what they noticed.

The video is on the Nature Nuggets site, which offers a combination of videos and activities created by the makers of the documentary film series Nature. Preview it here.

Here are some possible questions for discussion:

  • What animals did you see in the video?
  • Where do the animals live? How do you know?
  • If the animals could talk, what would you ask them?

Mystery 3: Animal Needs: Safety

Gopher in a Hole

In this Mystery, students observe different animal behaviors and work to discover another pattern: all animals seek safety in order to survive. The activity, Gopher in a Hole, includes physical movement in which students pretend to be snails hiding in their shells, praying mantises scaring away predators, and gophers popping out of holes.

Prep Instructions

This activity does not require supplies.

Make sure students have enough space to move around as they pretend to be different animals.

Since there’s so little prep for this activity, we recommend you plan on doing one of the activities in the Extras section. To understand how animals seek safety, it’s important that children have a chance to observe them. You can provide that opportunity by keeping pet snails, exploring a grassy lawn, going for a nature walk, or watching videos to learn what animals make their homes in a hole in a tree.

Read-Along Mystery 4: Animals & Changing the Environment

Nature Explorers

In this Read-Along Mystery, Desiree notices all the holes in the trees around her house—and sets out to discover how they got there, and why they matter. The Mystery includes a short exercise where students listen for animal sounds and pretend to be woodpeckers. You can extend the lesson with the optional activity, Nature Explorers, where students go for a nature walk and look for animals in their homes.

Prep Instructions

This activity does not require supplies.

As an optional activity, we suggest you go on a nature walk. It doesn't have to be far from your classroom or home. You can find animal homes in a playground, a grassy lawn, a city park, or a small yard. Look for ant hills, spiderwebs, birds in the trees, and insects in the grass.

Mystery 5: Plant Needs: Water & Light

Sprout a Seed

THIS LESSON WAS REVISED ON JULY 24, 2020. If you've prepped prior to that date, here is the link to the previous version.
In this Mystery, students investigate what plants need to grow. In the two-part activity, Sprout a Seed, students plant radish seeds in paper cups. When the seeds sprout, students notice that the leaves of the young plants lean toward the light. A classroom root viewer made from a Ziploc bag and paper towels lets students observe root growth.

Number of students:
Baking Soda
2 teaspoons
Dixie Cups (3 oz)
38 cups
Paper Plates
8 plates
Paper Towels
4 sheets
Plastic Spoons
16 spoons
Spray Bottles
2 bottles
Sticker Labels (1" x 3")
30 labels
Ziploc Bags (Snack Size)
A sandwich size bag will also work.
Details
1 bag
Peat Pellets
You need to soak peat pellets in water so that they are moist enough. Potting soil will also work. You will need about a quart of potting soil for a class of 24 students.
Details
30 pellets
Radish Seeds
Each student needs 3 radish seeds.
Details
1 3-gram packet
Prep Instructions

This is a two-part activity. We recommend that you allow at least four days (up to one week) in between Part One and Part Two of the experiment to give the radish seeds time to germinate. (To speed germination, soak the seeds in water overnight.)

You will need access to water and a sunny windowsill where the radish seeds can grow.

We recommend students work in pairs for this activity and share some supplies with another pair. Homeschool students can work on their own.

Prep Radish Seeds

For each group of four students, put a pinch of radish seeds (at least 15 seeds) in a Dixie cup.

Prep Dixie Cups

For each student, fill a Dixie cup halfway with moist potting soil. Or if you are using peat pellets, place one pellet in each cup, fill the cup with water, and let the pellet soak up the water for at least 30 minutes.

Prep Spray Bottles

In each spray bottle, mix about 1 cup of water with about ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. Adding baking soda will inhibit mold growth in the soil, but won’t affect the plants.

Prep Root Viewer

To give your students a way to see what their radish seeds are doing underground, you can make a root viewer. Here’s how:

*Fold paper towels and put them in a Ziploc bag. *Add water until the towels are saturated. *Place three seeds on top of the wet paper towel. *Squeeze the air out of the bag and zip it closed. *Tape the bag to a wall or window and encourage your students to check each day for roots growing from the seeds.

root viewer

Plan Your Time

After students complete Part One of this activity, they will need to wait at least four days for the seeds to sprout. Each day, encourage your students to watch the seeds in the root viewer as a way to see what is happening to their seeds under the soil in the cup.

When most of the leaves have come up, show Part Two of the activity. If you like, you can have your students draw the plants as they grow and change.

Read-Along Mystery 6: Animal Needs & Changing the Environment

Animal Visitors

In this Read-Along Mystery, Sam wonders why his grandmother wants to keep an old log in her yard—until he begins to meet a few of her friends. The Mystery includes a short exercise where students pretend to be lizards eating ants, and discover why old logs are helpful to animals. You can extend the lesson with the optional activity, Trees & Animals, where students watch chipmunks in their log home and act out many different animals living in a tree.

Prep Instructions

This activity does not require supplies.

As an optional activity, we suggest having students discuss what they could put in a yard or park to attract animals. We include videos that show birds in a birdbath, at a bird feeder, and in a bird house, reinforcing the idea that animals are are attracted to spots that offer food, water, and shelter.