Standard 1.L.1.1 states that students should be able to identify the basic needs of plants and animals and also recognize that they can be found in their environment, so it is time to go outside! This lesson is also necessary because first graders are so interested in the natural world and learning how animals and plants live together enables them to understand their world more clearly. This lesson gives students an up close example of a habitat so they also learn that habitats are all around us! Listen to my explanation for science to find out why I teach the Essential Standards.
I begin each lesson by posting a guiding question or two. This is a requirement by my county, but I find it helps to focus me and the students as well as we work through the lesson. Today, the questions are "What lives in a habitat? Are all habitats the same?" At the end of the lesson, we will answer those questions together.
During this lesson, students look at lots of different examples of the basic needs of animals and then look outside for a habitat, and through the process begin to understand that a habitat is not a defined size or place, but it can be anywhere!
*Book - One Small Square:Pond (You could use any of the books in this series)
*"Lenses" - A frame of some sort for partners or teams to use outside to define the area they are using to find a habitat. This could be a 1' x 1' square frame cut from cardboard, hula hoops, a rope with the ends tied together, etc.
*Digital cameras if available
In order for students to fully understand the activity for today, I start with a quick read of the book One Small Square: Pond by David Silver. This book supports Science and Engineering Practice 8 - Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information by reading an appropriate text to determine evidence about the natural world. The quick read is really to focus students on their activity for the day. It is a 'quick read' since the books in this series are very text heavy, so I just read bits and pieces that I know will be interesting that really address the basic needs and habitats of animals.
Then I tell students that we are going outside to find our own 'small square' and show them on the partner chart who their partner is for today. They will need their science journals, a pencil (someone should carry extras), a magnifying glass, and a frame.
Once we get outside, I say,
"Today, you are going to find a habitat and record what you find in it. This is how you use your frame: Find a place in the schoolyard that you think there might be some living organisms in. Put your frame around that area. Once you have chosen your area, do not move the frame again. Then, use your magnifying glasses to look really closely to see what you can find. Remember, you are in their space so try not to bother any animals or insects you may find. Then, as you look closely, you are going to draw, label, and write everything you find in your journals. I will be coming around to see what you find in your mini habitat".
Part of this lesson is for students to explore lots of places, so I let them wander and roam a little bit before they settle down to work. Also, students need to spread out as much as possible to see different things, so if you need to have an assistant or additional person with you, make sure you plan for that ahead of time for safety. As students work, I walk around and ask what they are finding and check to make sure they are recording their area. The goal is for them to not move their frame once they have chosen their space so that they record everything from one area. I use my digital camera to get a picture of each group and their habitat so that they can add that to their journals. I take pictures of their Student Squares so they can reference them later in their journals.
In first grade, diagrams and pictures are considered models in the Science and Engineering Practices, so this activity supports Practice 2- Developing and Using Models.
After the students have had adequate time to draw and write what they find, we return inside and sit on the carpet together.
After my students have mostly completed their model, we gather together again and have a conversation about the experience. I invite students to show what they recorded in their journals from their 'one small square'. We talk about whether or not each place could be considered a 'habitat' - some may not actually be a habitat, which leads us to define the term. A habitat is an area that is inhabited by an animal, plant, or other organism that lives there. If there is no evidence of those things, then it is not a habitat. Then I say,
"Today, we looked at real habitats and places in the schoolyard. Tomorrow, we are going to make models of some other kinds of habitats in other places. Who can answer our guiding questions for today, which were 'What lives in a habitat? Are all habitats the same?'"
After the lesson, I print off the pictures from our adventure so that students can add them to their journals to make the experience easier to remember through visuals.