Structure of Plants

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SWBAT see how the way a plant is made helps it to survive

Big Idea

The structure of things in nature is often determined by the environment it lives in.

Teacher Background

The Next Generation Science Standards for second grade state that students should have experience with how patterns in the natural world can be observed and that the shape and stability of structures of natural and designed objects are related to their functions. 

In this lesson students will have the opportunity to look at plants and trees in their natural habitat and to look at the structure of those plants or trees. The idea is for students to discover how the taller trees have larger root systems, and few branches at the lower levels while bushes have many leaves at low levels as well as different root systems. 

For this lesson it will be necessary to have a place where students can get outdoors to look at how different plants are growing naturally. This can be done on the school grounds, at a park, or at a place that is within walking distance of the school.

Have clipboards and pencils and paper ready for the walk.

A follow up in the classroom can be done the same day, or on a different day.

I Can Statement and Introduction

10 minutes

I ask students to begin today by reading the I Can Statement for themselves. It says, "We can look at the structure of plants and trees to see if there is a reason why they might be different."

I ask students if they know what the word structure means. I encourage students to share their definitions of the word. We discuss that structure is how something is made. I ask students if they remember when we built models and looked at tools and how the structure of the items helps them do their job.

I ask them if they remember how the apple peeler's shape helped it to peel the apples so much better than a straight knife. 

I say, "do you think that plants outside have structures to help them survive and do their jobs just the way tools do?" I let students offer their opinions and then tell them, "today we will be heading outside to look at plant structures. You may bring a clipboard, several sheets of paper, a pencil and an IPAD camera. I want you to look at the shape of the plant, the roots if you can see them, think about the plant's size, and about how the outside looks. Do any of those help the plant to survive and why do you think so? You need to document at least 5 different plants while we are outside. You may draw them, photograph them and/or write about them but be ready to share how the plant's structure or shape helps it to survive. "

I ask for one student to repeat the directions so I am sure students know what is expected of them when we go outside, and what materials they should be collecting. 

I let students gather what they need and line up to go outside.


An Outdoor Walk

15 minutes

I lead students to the place where they will be observing. I go over the outdoor boundaries so that no one will wander where they don't belong. I ask one more time for a student to repeat what they are looking for outside and what they should be recording. I make sure everyone is clear on the directions. I ask students to partner up to share the IPAD camera and to keep each other safe as they look for structures that help plants survive. 

I lead the students outside and let them wander around the nature paths in the school's outdoor classroom. Depending on your outdoor space, you may want to walk students in a more formal manner to keep them safe. 

I spend the time stopping to talk with groups and to see what they have found and what they have recorded on their clipboards. Explaining the Structure

At the end of the 15 minutes I blow my whistle and ask students to gather together to discuss what we have found. I choose to stay outside if possible so that if we want to go back and check on something that someone has shared, we are already out there. Sharing Our Findings

While there is no single answer to how the observable structure of the plant helps it survive I am interested here in having students give their opinions based on what they observed. This is an important NGSS skill that I am trying to introduce to students. They should be able to defend their ideas based on information they have gathered. 


10 minutes

After we return to the classroom,and children return to their seats,  I ask them to look back at the notes they took today. I say, "I want you to look back at the notes you took, the pictures you drew and the photographs you took while we were outside today. I would like you to pick one plant and explain how you think the structures of that plant help it to survive. You should be able to tell 2 - 3 things about the plant and how its shape, size, color, etc. help it to survive. 

I give students time to complete the writing assignment. I collect the papers for assessment purposes.