Living organisms activity & lesson plan
( Primary + grades)


A starter plan to facilitate a review and develop a deeper understanding of living organisms and their functions to better understand them and make better decisions when critically thinking. Copy it and paste it into your wordprocessor and make it yours.

Activities include investigations into what is living and non living and planning investigations about living organisms.

Background information:

This plan is designed for learners who have very little prior knowledge:

Related study topics:

  • Life studies

Big ideas, concepts, facts, and outcomes

Big ideas

  • The more we know about living organisms the better decisions we make for their and our benefits.

Related concepts and facts

  • Better decisions are made when information is verified before being considered accurate and used to reason and develop explanations and models to understand the world and make decisions.
  • People make better decision when they understand and consider the positive and negative influences that effect their decision making.


Use accurate verifiable information to consider information and influences when making decisions involving living organisms.

Science content - concepts & outcomes

Big ideas: Living organisms have similar needs, live and grow in similar ways, and need environments that can meet those needs to survive.

Related concepts

  • All living organisms have basic needs, (animals need air, water, food, and shelter (suitable environmental factors), freedom from invading organisms; plants need air, water, nutrients, light, and shelter (suitable environmental factors), freedom from invading organisms).
  • All living organisms use (metabolize) food for energy, move, respire, use water, reproduce their own kind, respond to the environment (sensitivity), grow, excrete waste, & require nutrition.
  • Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs can be met.
    Something is either alive or not alive.
  • Additional Life science concepts


  1. Use accurate verifiable information to make decisions about living organism and benefit humans.

Science - positive dispositions, inquiry, process skills, & perspective concepts, facts, & outcomes (concept lists)

Big ideas: Science is a process to gather reliable information to use to make decisions.

Related concepts and facts

  • Scientific investigations can be with familiar objects.
  • Questions can be answered by organizing objects and or events to conduct a fair test, observe the results, and create reasons to explain cause and effects of different happenings (interactions).
  • Recording observations helps to remember specific information.
  • Observations are used to collect information to reason with and create explanations.
  • When people disagree on explanations for an observation they usually make more observations to refine their explanations and reconsider their reasoning.
  • Observation, creativity, and logical argument are used to explain how things work.


  1. Use observation to support reasoning and explanations about living organisms.

Pedagogical information

Activities Sequence to provide sufficient opportunities for students to achieve the targeted outcomes.

Make sure students have the prior knowledge identified in the background information.

  1. Activity 1 - Students Brainstorm from their prior knowledge about what is living and not living.
  2. Focus student's attention by asking the overall focus question, then ask and discuss the sub focus questions and set learning goals.
  3. Investigate three objects: plant, animal, Earth material (rock).
  4. Plan an investigation to collect ideas (properties) to invent concepts about living organisms.

Focus question

Unit focus question:

  1. What is living?
  2. What makes something living?
  3. What do living things do that non living can't do?
  4. What kinds of decisions do people make related to living organisms?

Sub focus questions:

  1. How can we investigate and learn about what is living and non living.
  2. What do living organisms do?
  3. How do we list or write or record out findings?

Resources and Materials

Lab notes

  1. lab note 1

Fact sheets

Word bank

References and additional resources

Scoring guides suggestions (rubric)

Living (scoring guide)

Top level

  • Living organisms grow and survive if their basic needs are met: animals need air, water, food, and shelter; plants need air, water, nutrients, light, and shelter; both freed of invading organisms. The basic needs provide for (metabolize) food for energy, movement, respiration, use water, reproduce their own kind, respond to the environment (sensitivity), grow, excrete waste, & nutrition.
  • Organisms grow and move.
  • Organisms are alive.

Lower level

Professional educator development questions:

  1. What did you learn from this experience as a teacher?
  2. What is important to remember for next year or to share with other teachers?
  3. What did you learn about children?
  4. What concerns do you have about this activity with children?
  5. How can you make this experience better for children?

Lesson Plans

Activity 1 - What is living and non living?


Focus questions:

  1. What is living?
  2. What makes something living?
  3. What do living things do that non living can't do?
  4. What kinds of decisions do people make related to living organisms?
  5. How can we investigate and learn about what is living and non living.
  6. What do living organisms do?
  7. How do we list or write or record out findings?

Learning outcomes:

  1. Students will identify goals and procedures for learning about living organisms.

Suggested procedures overview:

  1. This is a
  2. Put students in groups, focus their attention, and assess their initial understanding of the focus questions.
  3. Activity



  1. Tell. Students to record their ideas for each of these questions in their lab notes. Don't comment on accuracy of their responses.
    1. What is living?
    2. What makes something living?
    3. What do living things do that non living can't do?
  2. Share their ideas, but don't comment on accuracy of their responses.
  3. Show students three objects:
    1. non living (rock),
    2. animal (class room organism hamster, fish..), and
    3. plant (class room or playground grass, tree, philodendron)
  4. Ask. Which do you think is alive?
  5. What reasons do you have for each? As alive or for not alive?
  6. List all students' suggestions for each object on a chart and have students record ideas in their lab notes.


  1. Summarize ideas for each object and ask how the ideas for each can be generalized. (living & non living; and living plant and animal, and non living rock)
  2. Tell. One way to describe objects is with their properties.
  3. List properties for living and non living.
  4. Summarize and suggest that they continue to observe the three objects over time to add ideas to their list their properties.

Discovery / Expansion

  1. Ask. How can we investigate more about living organisms to better understand what living is? Ask questions and observe different organisms to answer the questions and add properties to our list of living organisms. If different people investigate different ideas (properties) we can combine what is found and add more ideas to our list of what all living things have and do. Ideas that we can mostly all agree with.
  2. Share examples of questions and investigations and have students select a question to answer and a plan for their investigations.
    • Sample questions
    • What can we study in our classroom and around our school?
    • How can we observe them?
    • What do living organisms need?
    • How do living organisms get what they need?
    • What happens if they don't?
    • What happens to the philodendron if it doesn't get what it needs?
    • Sample observation ideas
    • Growing plants.
    • Growing plants without dirt. Cuttings, bulbs, roots in water.
    • Germinating seeds without dirt.
    • Growing plants with and without light.
    • Grow plants through mazes from dark to light.
    • Grow plants with viewable roots and turn roots to see what happens to their growth.
    • Find animals and stay with them, draw, video, take pictures, record and describe characteristics and changes.
  3. Have students write their question to investigate.
  4. Discuss how to observe and record observations. Magnifying glasses ... Select an observation form or create one. Might include:
    • Research question,
    • where to observe,
    • what to observe,
    • how often should they be observed,
    • what to record during each observation,
    • what we would like to learn,
    • how we will share the findings with others.
    • what evidence needs to be collected to use to help answer the question.
  5. Share safety concerns:
    • Don't disturb or harm living organisms and our environment.
    • Be safe.
    • Keep a regular schedule to observe.
    • What would be a good plan to study organisms near where you live?
    • Create questions to answer.
  6. Implement ideas.
  7. Write plans for investigations to do as a class, groups, individuals, or in combinations.
    • Write a question about a living organism you would like to answer.
    • Plan on how to answer it.
    • Share plans.
    • Conduct an investigation
  8. Have students look at their results and answer questions about their investigation first.
    • How well did your plan work?
    • How could you improve the plan to get more information?
    • Could your question be changed to find or learn more?
    • What other living organisms could be studied to help answer your question?
    • Where else is information that can be used to answer the question?
    • What was discovered about living organisms?


  1. Do dogs and squirrels have the same needs?
  2. Do pets and wild animals have the same needs?
  3. How can we find out:
  4. What would happen if living organisms didn't get what they need?
  5. What if they did?
  6. How do living organisms effect each other?
  7. Can there be both good and bad effects?
  8. What other questions would be worth investigating?

Book or video about Jane Goodall and how she watched a chicken lay an egg when she was young and later chimps.


Lab Notes for activities

Activity 1 - Brainstorming: What is living?

Brainstorming rules
  • Accept all suggestions (no criticism).
  • Free wheeling or hitch-hiking is allowed and encouraged.
  • Generate a large number of ideas.
  • Combinations and improvements are sought.
  • Everyone says their idea out loud and each writes their own ideas.
  • The wilder the idea the better.

What is living and not living?





What makes something living?





What do living things do that non living can't do?







Learning goals:

Activity 1 - Living and non living objects

Materials: three objects

Describe each object and list reasons why each is living or not living.













Describe properties of living.



Describe properties of non living.


Fact Sheets


Word bank






Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes