The Structures and Functions of Mammals

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SWBAT identify the different structures and functions of Mammals.

Big Idea

Structures and functions of mammals? Did you know mammals do really cool things that engineers can use to create new stuff? Check out how first graders discover more about mammals and Biomimicry!

Setting the Stage:

National Science Education Science Standards Connection:

The National Science Education Standards has said that making observations is key to inquiry-based and discovery-focused learning in science instruction. In order to do this students participate in inquiry-based learning that allows them to solve a problem in science through observation, discourse and using a science journal. Students will then be give a chance to share their findings with their peers and then reflect on their own understanding.

Next Generation Science Standards Connection:

In this unit students will learn that organisms have external parts that help them survive in nature and then use that information to help them solve a human problem by mimicking plants and animals. This is called Biomimicry - bio: life, mimicry - to copy. To learn more about Biomimicry check out this Ted Talks.

In this lesson students will learn about the different structures and functions of mammals.  They will identify that hair and furs function is to keep an animal warm and claws help animals to dig, protect themselves, hunt and find food.  They may also discover that the tail of a squirrel aids in balance and communication.  This lesson will also introduce my students to the idea that engineers can observe and copy things that animals do to create new inventions.

Home to School Connection:

In this unit we will be learning animal and plant parts. Students will learn that organisms have external parts that help them survive in nature. The NGSS standards ask students solve a human problem by mimicking how plants and animals survive.  Each a day a student in class will be able to take home the Organisms Bag. In this bag I have included a recording sheet, crayons and pencils, and the book What if You Had Animal Teeth by Sandra Markle.

Classroom Structures:

In order to support a high level of student discourse within my science lessons I have assigned two different student partnerships.  Turn and Talk Partners are discourse partners that work together to share the deep thinking that happens throughout the day.  Workshop Partners are partners who are matched together for the purpose of working during our independent times.  In this lesson students will be engaged in both partnerships.

Vocabulary Cards:

These are the vocabulary that will be covered in this unit that addresses 1-LS1-1.  You can choose to use these cards in different ways. I like to print all vocabulary words on card stock and hang them on my science bulletin board as a reference tool throughout the unit.  You can also use these cards as flashcards or a concentration matching game.


Anchor Chart - Animal Classifications

Video: Mammals (Discovery Channel)

Investigation Worksheet - Mammals

Explore Section - I sent home a letter to parents asking for a variety of different animal parts.  I received - Furs: 1 2 3, Skulls: 1 2, Teeth: Teeth - Beaver & Elk, Antlers: 1, Mammal Photographs, books about Mammals

Presentation - Biomimicry and Mammals

Science Journals:  I just use blank paper in my journals so my students have space and freedom to experiment with graphic organizers, illustrations, etc.

Science Journal Prompt: What are the structures and functions of mammals and how do they help them survive?


5 minutes

The NGSS does not require students to know the different classifications of the animal groups so the focus of this lesson is to allow my students to explore animal parts (structures) while introducing them to the different classifications.

I begin this lesson by referring to the anchor Chart we created in our previous lesson Animal Classifications.

Boys and girls, today we will be studying mammals. Do you remember what animals were the mammal group?  You are right!  Bobcats, bears and us.  We are mammals.  Let's look at our Animal Classifications anchor chart and read what we have learned about Mammals. Mammals are warm blooded. Can you feel your neck?  Does it feel warm? That is because you are warm-blooded. Mammals are also born alive. That means you did not have to use a beak to crack out of a shell.  You were born as a baby.  Another thing that is interesting about mammals is that all mammals have fur or hair.  Do you have fur or hair? 

In today's lesson you are actually going to be doing something very important.  You are going to be discovering different structures and functions of animals....WHAT? What are structures and functions? My students laugh. They have never heard the terms function or structures. Here I teach my students the vocabulary that they will using throughout this unit. Let's see I can make this easier. Today you are going to be discovering different animal parts and how animals use these parts. 

Structure - Animal Part

Function - What is it used for?

Today you are going answer this question: What are the structures (animal parts) and functions (how it is used?) of different mammals?

Let's see if we can use our anchor chart from yesterday to help us out. We wrote Bobcat under organism.  Yes. A Bobcat is an organism and it is a mammal. It has fur. It is warm blooded and its babies drink milk. It is a mammal.  Let's look under structure...remember that is the animal part.  Here we wrote fur.  What does the fur do to help this animal survive?  You are right!  It is keeps the Bobcat warm. Under function I will write, "It keeps it warm." Good JOB! You just figured out the Bobcats animal part...fur and the function of the fur. 

Do you think you are ready to give this a go today? Great! Let's get started!


25 minutes

The standard addressed in this unit requires students to make observations and identify functions of structures (animal parts) that help animals survive in nature.  In this lesson my students get to observe and collect data on the animal parts and functions of these parts.

Boys and girls, today you are going to watch a video about mammals.  In this video you are going to learn about some animal parts and how they are used.  Be sure to listen carefully to learn about how animals use their parts.

After the video I pass out our Investigation Worksheet - Mammals to each partnership. For this lesson it is alright if my students share the pen. I make a copy of each sheet at the end of the lesson so each child has their own copy in his/her folder.  I ask my students to take a few minutes to fill in the one row of the Investigation Worksheet - organism, the structure and the function. Many children may need help with this because it is their first time with this vocabulary. I use the document camera and fill in my own to provide support to my group. 

After the video my students are asked to visit various stations with different animals parts.  I was able to collect a variety of materials from the families of my students. I then sorted the materials into groups as follows: 

Station 1 - Animal Teeth - Beaver and Elk

Station 2 - Furs - Beaver, Elk, Bear, Racoon, Fox, cow, Skunk, etc.

Station 3 - Skulls - Big Horn Sheep, deer, Elk, Pronghorn, etc.

Station 4 - Antlers - Elk, deer, Moose, Pronghorn, etc.

Station 5 - Mammal Photographs and books of various text complexity on mammals.

**Most of my photographs are from the All About Animals Photo Library from Lakeshore.  If you don't have access to these cards you can also find great photographs in magazines.

As my students research and fill in their Investigation Worksheets: Mammals, I walk around and confer with each student naming and noticing the smart thinking happening. Conferring is the process of listening and recording the work the student or students are doing and then compliment the work. As I listen, I research a teaching point and then work to provide clarification through questioning, modeling and re-teaching. I refer back to our question:  What are the structures and functions of different mammals?


10 minutes

The NGSS asks that students communicate and explain information from observations. In the explain section I want my students to share their observations with their turn and talk partners.  Each partnership will engage in accountable talk agreeing or disagreeing with each others' observation notes.  I want my students sharing their observations and explaining their thinking as well as engaging in high levels of student discourse and reasoning. 

Thank you for meeting me on the carpet with your observations. We can call the work you have in front of you, your data.  Each of you have collected a lot of really good data today.  Now you get to do just what scientists do. You are going to share your data with your turn and talk partner.  Your job is to have a thoughtful conversation with your partner about your findings and your partners findings. As your partner shares his or her work with you, I want you to listen carefully to your partner today.  Are you ready to give this a go?

As my students share, I video tape and listen in on their conversations.  I show my students some of the rich conversations and point out the strengths in each conversation.

I bring them back together and we record the different animal parts we observed on our Structures and Functions anchor chart. 


15 minutes

In order to develop a culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration, I elaborate on our learning by showing my students a slide show with different animal parts and different inventions that have been created by copying each part. After watching the slide show we go back to our anchor chart and record possible human inventions created based the parts we recorded during the Explain section.

Presentation - Biomimicry and Mammals



10 minutes

The Science and Engineering Practice 4 asks students to analyze data. At the K-2 level this involves students collecting, recording, and sharing observations. In this lesson the students are recording information, thoughts and ideas in their science journals. I send my students back to their science journals and ask them to write the answer to our big question: "What are some of the structures and functions of different mammals?"

As the students write I tell them to refer back to their research. I am looking for answers that include both illustrations and words that describe the different animal parts and functions we learned about today.