This lesson exposes children to a wide range of animals and guides them through observation of animal similarities, differences, and environmental adaptations. This lesson can be used as part of a study of plants and animals. Before doing the lesson, students should know the meanings of the terms plant, animal, and living. 

As Benchmarks for Science Literacy points out, “Observing is not enough. The students should have reasons for their observation reasons that prompt them to do something with the information they collect.” Students should be encouraged to ask questions, to find answers by careful observation, and to compare their findings with those of other students. They can use their findings to create exhibits with photos, drawings, and even live specimens from the area where they live. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p. 102.) 

Research shows that lower elementary students tend to consider only vertebrates as animals, or to group animals by similarities in external appearance, behavior, or habitat. Young students also define plant in a narrow way, failing to classify grass, trees, and vegetables as plants. In addition, these students “typically use criteria such as ‘movement,’ ‘breath,’ ‘reproduction,’ and ‘death’ to decide whether things are alive. Thus, some believe fire, clouds, and the sun are alive, but others think plants and certain animals are nonliving.” (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, pp. 340–341.) In their study of plants and animals, students should be guided to an understanding that internal structures and processes can be more significant than external features in classification. 

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