Final Project Teaching Through the Learning Channels
Title of Lesson: Living and non-living things in an Ecosystem

Grade Level/ Audience: 4
  • The subject/content is: Science/ Ecosystems
  • Students will realize how living things are dependent on non-living and other living things for survival.
  • Develop criteria to decide if something is living or nonliving
  • Classify things as living or nonliving, based on those criteria
  • Recognize that living things grow, reproduce, and need food, air, and water

  • State or District Standards Addressed in this lesson are:
Standards: 3.1.4 Classify plant and animals according to their characteristics

Special Population considerations:
  • ELL and IEP students will have the opportunity to work with a partner
  • Internet sites allow for students to listen to text as they read along
  • graphic organizer provided to help guide students research
  • teacher will check in with special population groups often to monitor progress and answer questions

Part I
  • Summary of the Lesson: Lesson on identifying living vs. non-living things in an ecosystem. Students go on a scavenger hunt of courtyard to locate items to classify into categories “living” or “non-living” things. They are then introduced to characteristics of living things through video clips and use of a chart. Information is then synthesized and applied to new task of researching World Biomes (or other ecosystems) to apply knowledge of living or non-living to help for future survival of species and the planet.
  • Lesson Plans:
Day 1: Students will be placed into small groups to go outside in the courtyard to complete a scavenger hunt for living and non-living things. Once back in the classroom, students will share the items and place them into the correct category on a classroom chart.

Day 2: Teacher presentation of video clips to help students understand characteristics of living things.
Multimedia Resources

1. Tell students that they will be studying living things, or organisms. Have students reflect on the list of organisms they collected and think about all the features that make organisms "alive." Have them brainstorm answers to these questions:
  • What are some characteristics of living things?
  • What are some characteristics of nonliving things?
  • What makes living things different from nonliving things?
2. Explain to students the scientific definition of living (anything that is or has ever been alive) and nonliving (anything that is not now nor has ever been alive). Remember that the difference between nonliving and dead can be confusing to youngsters. Give an example of something that is dead but still classified as living, such as a log.
3 . Distribute copies of the handout Handout: Exploring the Characteristics of Living Things (PDF). Use an overhead transparency of the handout to show students how to fill in the Characteristics of Life column headings based on the list the class generated in Step 2.
5. Working in pairs, have students view examples of living and nonliving things from the Is It Alive? video and the Living and Nonliving stills collage. Have them classify each example as living or nonliving and record the name of the object or organism under the appropriate heading on the handout. Then have students indicate which characteristics of life each example exhibits by putting a check in the appropriate column. (For very young children, you can explore examples of living and nonliving things by displaying the stills on a large screen. To simplify the task of recording their observations, young students can draw pictures or use symbols to represent the things they examine.)
You might want to choose one example and model the process of scientific inquiry for students. Ask questions (Does this example reproduce? Does it grow?), make observations (The river is definitely moving.), and carefully record the results. Point out the importance of thinking like a scientist.
As students explore the examples, they may discover other characteristics of life they hadn't thought of earlier. Encourage them to add these characteristics to the chart.
6. Have students reflect on their findings by discussing the following questions:
  • What characteristics did ALL of the living things have in common?
  • Did any nonliving things possess some of the same characteristics as living things? Which ones?
  • How were the living things different from the nonliving things?
7. Assess students' understanding (and identify possible misconceptions) by asking:
  • Are all things that move "alive"? Have them defend their opinions by referring to the results of their explorations.
  • What kinds of nonliving things move?
Again, show them the clip of the moving cars, the running river, or the dripping icicle in the Is It Alive? video and ask:
  • How is the movement of living things different from the movement of nonliving things?
Next, ask:
  • Do all living things move?
If students say yes or are unsure, again show them the picture of the grass or plant or the clip of the coral. Then show them the video Animals on the Go and ask:
  • What kinds of living things move? What kinds don't move?
  • Do plants move?
  • Why do living things move?
Show them the Animals Making a Living video to help them answer this last question.
8. Show students the What Do Animals Eat? video. Ask:
  • Do all living things eat?
  • Plants don't eat but they need energy. Where do they get it?
9. Anticipate questions about growth. For example, icicles "grow," yet they aren't alive. Explain that all living things grow some time in their lives, but that some nonliving things seem to get bigger too. For this reason, growth cannot by itself be used to classify something as living.
10. End the lesson by asking students whether they want to make any changes to the original list they made of the characteristics of living things.

Day 3: Students complete handout (chart) to identify characteristics of living things and share findings with class.

Day 4: In small groups, students choose an additional biome (ecosystem) to explore using the MBG net website ( Students gather new information to include in the original handout : Exploring the Characteristics of Living Things (PDF). New information is shared with the class. Plans will be made in small groups to brainstorm possible solutions to help each ecosystem to survive.

Day 5 Wrap it Up- each group shares information with class.