Mini Unit on Plants and Animals
Plants and animals are a very important part of our world. They are also one of the first things to study when you work on the life sciences. Below are some fun and interesting ways to study this subject.
1. Create a deck of “creature cards.” Cut out pictures of at least 25 different creatures that walk, crawl, fly, hop, or slither. Separate the pictures into groups that possess similar characteristics, such as the way they move, the way they look, the way they bear their young, what they eat, and so on. Explain your reasons for the groups. Try using your cards with younger children or to play a game.
2. Observe an animal, such as a dog or cat, over a period of time. Not how and when it plays, eats, uses its senses, and hunts. Observe how it behaves when it meets up with another of its species.
3. View a video or read a book about a creature in the wild that is in the same family as a tame or domestic animal. Note behaviors that are the same between the wild creature and its tame or domesticated counterpart. An example of this could be a lion and a housecat.
4. Go on a fossil or dinosaur hunt. Find a fossil or dinosaur in a book, in a museum, etc. Find out what the world was like when the fossil was alive. Find out why some of these types of creatures no longer live.
5. Learn about one animal pest and one plant pest. Discover why humans consider these plants or animals to be pests. Find out if these pests are important to a food chain. Find out who in your community can help control these pests, learn how diseases from these pests are being treated, and find out what is being done about them in your community. Some species to choose from: deer ticks, rats, cockroaches, fleas, tansy ragweed, poison oak or poison ivy, kudzu.
6. Grow a plant from another plant’s parts. This might be a jade plant from a jade plant leaf, a spider plant baby, a pineapple head, etc.
7. Grow a plant from a plant root part. This might be a potato or ginger root.
8. Grow a plant from seeds. This can be either a vegetable, flower, or other plant.
9. Keep a lab record of each of the plants that you grow. Learn what your plants need to grow healthy and strong.
10. At a zoo or in your favorite animal books, go on a safari. Find the names of animals that:
---have a thick fur coat for a cold climate
---have long fingers for grasping branches
---have bright colors for attracting a mate
---have a body part than can reach tree branches while the animal is still on the ground
---have long legs for wading
---have a dark color for living in shadows
---have a tongue that reaches in hard-to-get places
---can spit when they are upset
---have big ears that help to cool their blood in hot climates
---use water for cooling
---use the earth for cooling
---have patterns for camouflage
---have voices that communicate
---have body movements that communicate
---are an endangered species
---have behavior that marks territory
---have a nose that helps find food
---have a footless way of moving
11. Go on a plant sleuth walk. List as many ways as you can that plants are used by people.
12. Visit a botanical garden, plant nursery, or a greenhouse. Learn different ways of changing a species of plant to bring out a desired characteristic or to strengthen the species.
13. Talk to someone who works with plants or animals, such as a researcher, wildlife biologist, geneticist, botanist, or marine biologist. Find out what led him or her likes most about the job.
14. Teach an animal to behave in a new way. Find ways of doing this without causing pain, fear, or harm. You could teach a dog a trick, as an example.
15. Train a plant to grow in a new or different way. Or read about this. Examples of this is the bonsai tree or trellis of fruit trees.