Plants and animals are an essential part of the elementary environment. Some reside in the classroom while others visit. As children observe and care for these living things, they acquire the experiential basis for their future understanding and love of biology. They further extend their knowledge by going out to wildlife sanctuaries, arboretums and nature parks to view animals and plants in their natural habitats.
With this foundation, children become interested in studying the wide variety of life forms on our planet. They read, “Who am I” stories about the lives and characteristics of plants and animals. They examine specimens of different invertebrates and vertebrates. They perform plant experiments that demonstrate the basic functions of each part of a plant.
Although the plant and animal kingdoms receive the most attention, all five kingdoms of living organisms are introduced: Monera, Protista, Fungi, Plant and Animal. Children study the anatomy, physiology and classification of living things using classroom resources such as books, card material and charts. They write reports, ranging in complexity from a simple study of one organism, to a more advanced study of several organisms. Similarities and differences are noted.
Out of the comparative study of life forms, the children make connections between present-day organisms and their predecessors on the “Time Line of Life”. As conditions on earth changed, organisms that were more complex evolved. In satisfying its needs, each creature seemed to contribute to, or create a niche for, another. As insects evolved, so did flowering plants. Furthermore, these interdependencies still exist today. A lichen breaks down the rock upon which it lives, creating soil, in which mosses can grow. The interdependence of all things in the universe is stressed, with people being the most powerful living thing, but also the most dependent. An appreciation and sense of wonder unfolds as the harmony of creation is revealed.