Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

Earth is Home

Originally Written for First Grade

Investigate the concepts of diversity and cycles while studying the differences among organisms. Themes include: plant life, soil, weather, and garden creatures.

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Life Lab Science was written to align with previous national science standards. We have grouped the following units in their original grade level band. These suggested grade levels may or may not align with your current grade level content.

Each unit download includes a letter to parents to prepare for the unit, a song, multiple lessons, and appendices/lab pages in English and Spanish.

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Sensing Our World (Originally Written For First grade)

Theme: Students practice using their senses to explore the world around them. 

Science Explorations: Students gain an awareness of the garden as a living laboratory. 

Process Skills: Students explore different ways of cooperating with one another through working together in the garden, sharing ideas, and listening.

In this unit, students explore life, Earth, and Physical science concepts through lessons that focus on using the senses to learn about objects and the environment. 

Life Science: Humans, like animals, use their senses to learn about the world around them. 

Earth Science: The garden is a place where plants and animals live. 

Physical Science: Objects in the garden have properties that can be observed.

A feast far the eyes. 

A tickling of the taste buds . 

Music to the ears. 

Through our senses we experience the world. We rely on our senses to inform us of danger and opportunity. Our senses delight and inspire us by bringing richness and variety to our lives. In this, the first unit of the year, students consciously use their senses as they be:gin to explore the natural world. They also begin to examine the two themes for the year-diversity and cycles. As they use their senses to examine objects, they discover the enormous diversity in the world. Our senses alert us to change, so they are also a natural starting place for exploring cycles. 

An exploration of the senses is a good beginning to a year of active science learning. It helps students develop observation, compari­son, and communication skills that will be built on throughout the year. In this unit, students focus on one sense at a time. Later they make more complex observations. By comparing and contrasting objects, students begin to distinguish living from nonliving things. Partner and group work give students practice in communicating what they observe and understand. 

Observing plants and animals in .the garden is a good way for students to practice using their senses. Two activities in this unit introduce students to the garden and help them appreciate it as a place f01r learning. Other ways of involving students in the garden are provided in the Digging Deeper and In the Garden sections of the unit.

2- Song: “Take the Time to Wonder” 

3- Introduction

4- Student Goals 

5- Activity Chart 

7- Unit Planner 

8- Recommended Literature 

9- Parent Letter 

10- Hello, Garden (touring the class garden) 

13- Explorer Post 1: Through the Looking Glass (exploring magnifying lenses).

15- Garden Shape Search (honing observation skill) 

18- Rattling Roundup (developing listening skills). 

21- Know Your Nose (developing sense of smell) 

24- Mirrors (practicing cooperation skills). 

27- Ball Balance (problems solving with a partner)

29- Explorer Post 2: Harvest Time (harvesting and

exploring vegetables).

31- Tools Together (using and sharing garden tools). 

34- Explorer Post 3: Garden Store (pretending to market crops). 

36- Grow a Garden (sowing seeds in the garden) 

39- Alphabet Garden (growing a plant for each letter of the alphabet). 


Investigating Seeds (Originally Written For First grade)

Theme: Students explore the diversity of seeds and the ways seeds change. 

Science Explorations: Students gain an awareness of the growth process and explore some of the characteristics of living things. 

Process Skills: Students practice observation skills and are introduced to the process of making predictions and categorizing information.

In this unit, students explore Life, Earth, and Physical science concepts through lessons that focus on the characteristics of seeds. 

Life Science: A seed is the part of a plant from which a new plant grows. There are many kinds of seeds and they all share the characteristics of living things. 

Earth Science: Seeds require water to germinate. 

Physical Science: Seeds have physical properties that can be observed and described.

It is tempting to think of a seed as magic. Every seed-no matter how small-contains all of the genetic information needed to produce an entire plant. Although all seeds serve the same func­tion-the creation of new plants-they come in an incredible variety of shapes and sizes. As students compare and contrast seeds, they explore one aspect of this year’s theme: diversity. Their study of seeds also leads to an exploration of the characteristics of living things, an exploration that will also continue throughout the year. 

Building on skills and concepts the previous unit, this. unit helps students practice their observation skills. They compare and contrast various kinds of seeds. They also look for ways seeds differ from non-seeds. And they monitor seeds as the seeds germi­nate and grow. In addition, students are introduced to the Guess­Test-Tell method of investigation. They begin by predicting the results of simple experiments. 

In the garden, students begin to observe changes in. seeds and plants. After watching seeds germinate, students plant their own seeds. They also become aware that different seeds produce differ­ent plants.

36- Song: “Roots, Stems, Leaves” 

37- Introduction 

38- Student Goals 

39- Activity Chart

40- Unit Planner

41- Recommended Literature

42- Parent Letter 

43- Is It a Seed? (sorting seeds and non-seeds) 

46- Full of Beans (sorting beans by characteristics)

49- Seed Soaks (predicting the effect of soaking peas)

53- Coming Up (predicting the outcome of planting peas seeds)

57- Seed Source (discovering seeds inside apples)

60- Seeds Match-up (matching seeds with fruits)

Exploring Soil (Originally Written For First grade)

Theme: Students observe that different kinds of plants and ani­mals live in the soil, and explore the diversity of living and nonliving things found there. 

Science Exploration: Students begin to identify living objects as plants and animals. 

Process Skills: Students observe and compare objects

The activities in this unit develop a variety of Life, Earth, and Physical science concepts related to soil and the living things found in the soil. 

Life Science: Many living things are found in garden soil. 

Earth Science: Soil is made up of many things. Soil is an example of something nonliving. 

Physical Science: Soil has properties that can be observed and described.

Scoop up a handful of soil and you may see pebbles, grains of sand, bits of leaves and twigs, a piece of bone, and perhaps even an ant or earthworm. H you were to look at the soil through a microscope, you would find a busy world of tiny animals moving around and through the soil particles. Soil is crowded with living creatures, ranging from microscopic bacteria and fungi, to earthworms and millipedes, to gophers and moles. Soil provides the foundation for life on Earth. From the soil grow plants that provide food for people and other animals. Without soil, none of us could survive. 

In this unit, students examine garden soil and the plants and animals living in it. Their investigations provide opportunities to explore one of this year’s themes: diversity. As they examine the rich variety of living things in soil, students begin to appreciate diversity in the natural world as a whole. 

This unit also provides opportunities for students to practice their observation skills and apply these skills to the Guess-Test-Tell process. Students sharpen these skills as they make careful obser­vations about the properties of soil and perceive changes in things that live in the soil. 

Using the soil in their own garden as a focus of study, students begin to explore the diversity and workings of the garden environ­ment. They gain insights into the ways garden plants and animals affect the soil. Students also begin to appreciate how they as gardeners can affect the soil.

64- Song: “Dirt Made My Lunch” 

65- Introduction 

66- Student Goals

67- Activity Chart 

68- Unit Planner

69- Recommended Literature 

70- Parent Letter

71- Going on a Worm Hunt (setting up a Worm Hotel; collecting worms)

75- Soil Discoveries (sorting the contents of a cup of soil)

78- It’s in the Bag, Part I (composting oil and plant materials in a bag)

81- Pitfall Traps (collecting garden animals in small traps)

85- It’s in the Bag, Part II (examining the contents of the compost bags)

87- Plants in Soil (planting seedlings in soil with compost)

90- The Dirt on Soil (creating a class book about soil)

Observing Earth’s Cycles (Originally Written For First grade)

Theme: Students explore changes and patterns of change, includ­ing cycles, that take place daily and seasonally. 

Science Explorations: Students investigate changes in shadows, day and night, the moon, and living things. 

Process Skills: By recording and comparing their observations, students begin to describe patterns of change.

This unit develops a variety of concepts related to cycles and change. 

Life Science: Living things change. 

Earth Science: There is a cycle of day and night, as well as a moon cycle. 

Physical Science: We can measure changes. 

Science, Technology, and Society: Natural patterns of change affect the way we live.

When will Saturday be here? How long until dinner? Is it almost time to pick our peas? The coming, going, and recurrence of events are important to all of us-even children. We depend on the predictable, cyclical nature of our lives to plan our weekdays, our weekends, our wardrobes, our gardens, and other aspects of our lives. 

This unit provides ways for students to observe changes in the natural world, enabling them to begin exploring one of the year’s themes: cycles. The activities in this unit stimulate students’ inter­est in change. The unit also develops the skills students need to detect changes and observe patterns of change. As they explore, students come to their own conclusions about the how and why of several simple changes, which later will help them understand more abstract changes such as yearly cycles and seasons. 

Examining change and unraveling patterns are exciting and vital skills for young scientists. By learning to focus on what they see and record what they discover, students are stimulated to explore at deeper levels. In addition to reinforcing and extending the obser­vation skills emphasized in previous units, this unit provides opportunities for students to enhance their cooperative skills. Most of the activities are designed to allow students to work together in pairs or small groups. 

The garden is a good place for students to observe change. The more familiar students are with the garden, the easier it will be for them to notice changes there. Many gardening ideas are included in Gardening Know-How for the ’90s, and the In the Garden and Digging Deeper sections of this unit.

94- Song: “Nocturnal Animals”

95- Introduction

96- Student Goals

97- Activity Chart

98- Unit Planner

99- Recommended Literature

100- Parent Letter

101- The Difference a Day Makes (observing objects change during the course of a day)

104- Me and My shadow (observing a pencil’s shadow during the course of a day)

108- Day Circles (role playing daily cycles)

111- Moon Watchers (recording changes in the moon)

114- Collector’s Corner (collecting objects and sorting them into categories)

118- A Tree for All Seasons (observing and drawing changes in a tree outdoors)

121- Checking Out Changes (predicting change in the garden)

Investigating Weather (Originally Written For First grade)

Theme: Students develop their understanding of various weather phenomena and the effects of these phenomena on living and nonliving things. 

Science Explorations: Students observe both changes in weather and changes caused by various weather phenomena. 

Process Skills: Students practice observing weather over time and record their observations

Process Skills: Students develop cooperative skills by participat­ing in activities and working together to grow a garden.

The activities in this unit develop a variety of concepts related to weather. 

Life Science: Living things respond to changes in the weather. 

Earth Science: Wind, precipitation, and temperature are weather conditions. 

Physical Science: Changes in direction, temperature, and volume can be measured. 

Science, Technology, and Society: Weather is an important part of our daily lives. It affects what we wear and what we do.

The sky goes dark. A clap of thunder rattles the window panes. Even young children know that something is about to happen. What they may not know is how the darkened sky and the thunder are connected to the rainstorm that follows. As they explore the activities in this unit, students begin to make such connections. 

In this unit, students develop the skills needed to recognize the elements that make up the weather, and to identify changes in weather. They observe a flag fluttering in the breeze, cloud forma­tions, and the way the sky changes through the course of a thunder storm. The children are introduced to simple measurements so that they can not only tell that things change, but also determine the extent of those changes. 

As children observe changes over time, they make connections. They become aware of the patterns that underlie the changes in the weather from day to day. They may watch temperatures drop as winter approaches. Or they may discover that hot, humid days breed thunderstorms. 

Just as farmers watch the sky and listen to weather reports in order to plan their activities, students begin to discover how weather affects the garden. They discover that rainfall, wind, frost, dry spells, and everything in between affects what grows and how well it grows. The better they understand weather, the more skilled they will become as gardeners-knowing when to plant and when to harvest, when to protect seedlings from cold, and when to water.

126- Song “River Song”

127- Introduction

128- Student Goals

129- Activity Chart

130- Unit Planner

131- Recommended Literature

132- Parent Letter

133- Weather Stories (sharing stories about weather)

136- Weather Wizards (recording daily weather conditions)

139- Hot to Cold (predicting and recording temperatures of objects)

143- Drop in the Bucket (learning to use a home-made rain gauge)

147- The Waving Wind (observing wind and its effects)

150- Storm Watch (observing and drawing a storm; nothing its effects on the garden)

153- Weather Roundup (synthesizing weather data)

156- Mt Weather Report (creating weather reports and predicting tomorrow’s weather)

Exploring Plant Life (Originally Written For First grade)

Theme: Students explore the diversity of plants and the stages of the plant life cycle. 

Science Explorations: Students identify similarities in the struc­tures and life cycles of seed-bearing plants. 

Process Skills: Students apply observation skills to identifying patterns, making comparisons, and predicting outcomes.

In this unit, students explore Life, Earth, and Physical science concepts through activities that focus on the structure and life cycle of plants. 

Life Science: Different kinds of plants have structural similarities that can be observed. All seed-bearing plants share a similar life cycle. 

Earth Science: The Earth, its atmosphere, and the sun provide resources for plants to grow and change. 

Physical Science: Change can be measured.

Living things in general and plants in particular make Earth unique among the planets. Even a passing glance at the world about us reveals an astonishing range and assortment of plant life. In this unit, students examine the diversity of plants, and, through that close scrutiny, uncover unexpected similarities in the structures and life cycles of plants. 

The first step in studying plants is to provide students with a clear idea of what a plant is, an idea that may not be as easy to establish as it sounds. Students may be able to distinguish a redwood from a rose, a privet from a pansy, and maybe even a marguerite from a marigold. They may not, however, think of trees, shrubs, and flowers as different kinds of plants, or use the word plants to describe them. Recognizing the fundamental qualities that define a plant will, in turn, help students realize the astonishing variety in the plant world. 

In a previous unit, students explored the properties of seeds and their role in the life cycle of plants. Students now focus on seedlings which they care for throughout the unit: they monitor growth, measure change, detect patterns of change, make comparisons, and predict continued development. An ongoing feature of this unit is the Pet Plant Album, in which students compile, organize, and record these observations. At the same time, students are testing their assumptions about how seeds and plants are related, where plants come from, and how all of those different seeds got into the ground anyway. 

At the end of the unit, students review their ideas about plants, and discuss how their knowledge of plants grew along with their seedlings.

160- Song: “Roots, Stems, Leaves”

161- Introduction

162- Student Goals

163- Activity Chart

164-Unit Planner

165- Recommended Literature

166- Parent Letter

167- Pick the Plant (distinguishing plants from non plants)

170- PetPlants (carefully observing and drawing plants)

173- Pet Plant Album (observing a seedling over the course of a month)

176- Plant Anatomy (comparing and labelling the parts of different weeds)

179- From Flowers to Fruit (observing a flower develop into a fruit)

182- The Life of a Plant (dramatizing the stages in a plant life cycle)

185- Outdoor Pets (transplanting pet plants into the garden)

Exploring Animal Life (Originally Written For First grade)

Theme: Students recognize that there are many kinds of animals on Earth, and that animals have a life cycle just as other living things do. 

Science Explorations: Students identify animals as living things with common characteristics. These include ways of moving (walk­ing, flying, swimming}, ways of sensing the world (seeing, hearing, smelling), and ways of eating (plant-eating or animal-eating). 

Process Skills: Students observe patterns of change, and compare and sort objects according to similarities and differences.

In this unit, students explore a variety of concepts that focus on the characteristics of animals. 

Life Science: Animals are living things with a life cycle that includes growth, reproduction, and death. 

Earth Science: Animals depend on resources to live. 

Physical Science: Animals have properties that can be described.

Students were surprised at the number of living things that are plants, they will be equally astonished by the variety within the animal world. Animals include insects (the largest group), fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. A worm􀀰 an animal. So too is a blue whale, a chimpanzee, a hummingbird, and an oyster. Scientists have identified nearly a million different kinds of ani­mals. In this unit, students explore what animals have in common. They discover that almost all move in some way. They also find that animals eat other animals or plants. These two characteristics differentiate animals from plants, which are rooted to a place and make their own food through the process of photosynthesis. 

Like plants,animals have a life cycle of birth,growth,reproduction, and death. There is great diversity in the ways this life cycle is carried out. Some animals like the elephant live over sixty years, while others like the mayfly live for only a few hours. Animals also vary in the ways they reproduce. Some lay eggs; others give birth to live babies; and still others create new, genetically identical individuals from their own bodies. Some animals go through a phenomenal metamorphosis resulting in an adult stage that has no resemblance to the earlier growing stage. In this unit students observe such a life cycle as they raise caterpillars and observe them change into butterflies. 

The activities and projects included in this unit focus on small garden animals that the children keep temporarily in the class-room. As students investigate these animals, they expand and deepen their understanding of what an animal is. They also de- velop insights into the ways living things can be categorized as plants or animals.

190- Song: “No Bones Within”

191- Introduction

192- Student Goals

193- Activity Chart

194- Unit Planner

195-Recommended Literature

196- Parent Letter

197- Is It an Animal? (distinguishing animals from non-animals)

200- Caring for Caterpillars (recording caterpillar growth over time)

204- Animal Hunt (collecting and observing small garden animals)

207- Animal Portraits (drawing small garden animals)

210- Leg Count (sorting small garden animals by number of legs)

213- Animal Responses (investigating small garden animals’ response to stimuli)

216- From Caterpillars to Butterflies (watching a butterfly emerge)

219- Garden Animals Book (creating a class book about garden animals)

Investigating Garden Homes (Originally Written For First grade)

Theme: Students explore the different kinds of living things that make their homes in the garden. 

Science Explorations: Students investigate the ways in which animals’ homes provide them with shelter, food, and safety. 

Process Skills: Students apply the observations they have made throughout the year.

In this unit, students explore a variety of activities that focus on developing sensory awareness and on growing plants. 

Life Science: Plants have different growing requirements. Work in the garden causes changes that can be described. 

Earth Science: Soil can be wet or dry. Tools can be used to dig in soil. Water can wash away soil. 

Physical Science: Water has physical properties that can be de­scribed. 

Science, Technology, and Society: People can grow food. They can eat it raw or cooked. Different tools are used for different jobs. 

In this final unit, students explore and celebrate the garden in its role as a home for many kinds of Ufe. The garden is a complex weave of relationships. Caterpillars munch on plants which they may later pollinate as butterflies .. Spiders stretch their webs between plant stems in order to catch ·insects that feed on plants. Birds build their nests in trees, while at the same time keeping those trees free of pests. Most living things depend on other living things to fulfill their needs for food, shelter, and protection, a fulfillment we associate with home. 

The relationships revealed as· students investigate garden homes synthesize the plant and animal life cycles they explored in previ­ous units. In the garden, children see how animals depend on plants as sources of food, as materials for shelter, and as part of their defense strategy. Students consider how a wide variety of garden animals, from birds to spiders, meet these basic needs. Through observing, exploring, and imagining, students discover that each animal fashions a home in its own unique way. 

In the course of this year, your students have investigated seeds, the components of soil, weather conditions, and the living things in the garden. They have had much practice in making observations and comparisons. This unit provides many opportunities to assess growth in these skills. As students participate in activities and interact with one another, check to see if they have become more careful observers. Are they more aware of small details? Do they detect patterns and shapes? Note too their increasing ability to compare and contrast data.

2- Song: “Take the Time to Wonder” 

3- Introduction

4- Student Goals 

5- Activity Chart 

7- Unit Planner 

8- Recommended Literature 

9- Parent Letter 

10- Hello, Garden (touring the class garden) 

13- Explorer Post 1: Through the Looking Glass (exploring magnifying lenses).

15- Garden Shape Search (honing observation skill) 

18- Rattling Roundup (developing listening skills). 

21- Know Your Nose (developing sense of smell) 

24- Mirrors (practicing cooperation skills). 

27- Ball Balance (problems solving with a partner)

29- Explorer Post 2: Harvest Time (harvesting and

exploring vegetables).

31- Tools Together (using and sharing garden tools). 

34- Explorer Post 3: Garden Store (pretending to market crops). 

36- Grow a Garden (sowing seeds in the garden) 

39- Alphabet Garden (growing a plant for each letter of the alphabet). 


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