Our last science lesson was about living and non-living, specifically what is the criteria for something that is living. We used an acrostic of MRS. GREF to help us understand this concept. Following this lesson we narrowed our focus to living things only. We divided living things into two classes: Plant and Animal. We again took a walk outside with the purpose of finding examples of plants and animals. A simple conversation about plants and animals was all that was needed to focus our intention before heading out the front door. As we walked along, Hannah naming different plants (grass, tree, flower, blackberry bush, etc.) and animals (ants…more ants, bird, ants), we talked a little about the difference between the two.
Two main differences between plants and animals are that plants make their own food while animals must hunt or gather food; and plants are rooted in one spot while animals move freely.
For preschool this is enough to distinguish the two groups. For the elementary (middle or high school) child you can use the MRS. GREF acronym to contrast and compare plants and animals. Your research can be very simple and basic, or you can go into greater depth depending on the level and interest of your child (ren). A simple worksheet or layout on a rug might look like this:
R- Respiration (breathing)
You could also use a Venn Diagram graphic organizer to contrast and compare the two classes.
We gathered a few samples of plants, but I refused to bring home any fire ants and catching a bird was out of the question. I unrolled our work rug and put the title “Living” at the top. On the left side of the rug, underneath the “Living” title, I placed the label “Plant” and on the right side, underneath the “Living” title, I placed the label “Animal”. We put all the plant specimens under the plant label, but our Animal class was empty. We talked about the animals we saw and why we didn’t bring them inside. Hannah then got out her science journal and recorded the lesson, drawing the plants on the rug and the animals we talked about in the appropriate category.
A week later we were out for another walk for the sheer pleasure of it and noticed little snails enticed out by a recent rain. The teacher in me, always at the ready, seized upon this good fortune and launched into an impromptu lesson.
“Is this snail a plant or an animal?” Animal!
“Why?” Because it has to find its food and its free to move around.
We gathered up a small handful of them to bring home for the purpose of classifying them into that empty category on our rug. We collected a couple of beautiful flowers for the Plant class and laid the work out again as if it were the first time we were doing it! I also found a small, plastic ant from our object box to represent the plethora of ants we saw on our walk.
As a teacher there will always be lessons that don’t go as well as you hoped, didn’t turn out, or completely flop. There is no rule written anywhere that says you can’t give that lesson again! Repeated exposure to concepts helps the learning process anyway! It’s a win/win!
Once “Living and Nonliving” and “Plant vs. Animal” lessons are given the sequence of lessons for each class are as follows:
- The Care of Plants
- The Plant Kingdom
- Plants: Parts and Types
- Roots: Parts and Types
- Stems: Parts and Types
- Leaves: Parts and Types
- Flowers: Parts and Types
- Fruits: Parts and Types
- Seeds: Parts and Types
- The Care of Animals
- The Animal Kingdom
- Invertebrate Vs. Vertebrate
- Poriferan: Parts and Types
- Cnidarian: Parts and Types
- Platyhelminth: Parts and Types
- Nematodes: Parts and Types
- Annelids: Parts and Types
- Arthropods: Parts and Types
- Molluscs: Parts and Types
- Echinoderms: Parts and Types
- Fish: Parts and Types
- Amphibians: Parts and Types
- Reptiles: Parts and Types
- Birds: Parts and Types
- Mammals: Parts and Types
Montessori For Everyone has wonderful nomenclature cards for all of these lessons. It is always best to introduce the lesson with a real specimen first and then label the parts on a toy replica or even a drawing of the animal. You can visit a pet store for real life experience with almost all of the animals.
When we are ready to launch into specific research of individual plants and animals, MRS. GREF can guide our research, helping us to ask the right questions and seek the most important information for a thorough investigation of each individual plant or animal chosen.