Life Lab

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

Change Around Us

Originally Written for Second Grade

Observe and investigate the concept of change by measuring the conditions that affect living and non-living things such as plants, water, food chains, resource conservation, and air.

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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 Changes (Originally Written For Second grade)

Theme: Students observe the properties of things and the process of change. 

Science Explorations: Students use their senses to discover the physical properties of objects and to compare and contrast objects. 

Process Skills: Students develop observation, categorization, and communication skills as they use their senses to identify, sort, and describe objects.

In this unit, students explore Life, Earth, and Physical science concepts through lessons that focus on the way their senses provide information about the world. 

Life Science: The senses enable people to observe, define, and record parts of the environment. Using the senses also enables people to feel that they are a part of the environment. 

Earth Science: The garden provides resources for things that live there. 

Physical Science: Physical properties of matter can be observed, defined, and recorded.

Through sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste, we experience the world around us. Our senses delight and inspire us by adding richness and variety to our lives. They also enable us to communi­cate with one another. By listening to, reading about, watching, and touching others, we expand our understanding of the world. 

In this unit students use their senses to expand their understanding of the natural world. They observe and explore the characteristics of many different objects, often focusing on one sense at a time. Such activities build a foundation for more complex observations later in the year. Because the senses alert us to alterations in our surroundings, the activities in this unit are also a natural starting place for exploring this year’s theme: change. Students begin to observe the process of change. 

The activities in this unit help students develop a variety of coop­erative skills. They begin by learning how to listen, help each other, and share ideas. Students practice these skills by working with partners and in small groups. They will continue to do so through­out the year. The tasks they perform, however, will become more and more challenging. 

Several activities in this unit introduce students to the garden. Not only do these lessons help students become more aware of their senses, they also help them become familiar with the garden and how it can be used as a scientific laboratory. In every unit you will find helpful references to the garden resource book, Gardening Know-How for the ’90s, which will answer your questions and expand your knowledge of basic gardening techniques.

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 Plants (Originally Written For Second grade)

Theme: Students explore the characteristics of plants and the ways they change as they grow. 

Science Explorations: Students investigate the resources that plants need to survive. 

Process Skills: Students practice making predictions about change and recording their observations. 

In this unit students explore Life, Earth, and Physical science concepts related to plants and the things they need to grow. 

Life Science: Plants are living things and need certain resources from their environment to grow. 

Earth Science: The Earth, its atmosphere, and the sun provide resources such as soil, water, and air for plants to grow. 

Physical Science: Change can be measured.

In this unit students investigate the needs of plants. It is the beginning of an exploration into the basic needs of living things, which will continue throughout the year. The unit is also an introduction to the process of scientific investigation-of asking questions and collecting evidence. Students investigate such ques­tions as: What is a plant? And what do plants need to grow? They also consider how their questions can be tested. In other words, this unit introduces children to Life Lab’s Guess-Test-Tell process, a simplified version of the scientific method. Students make predic­tions and set up experiments to test their ideas. Then they interpret the results.

Through the process students discover that plants, like other living things, have basic needs. Plants depend on water and other natural resources for survival. In this very simple way, students begin to understand the relationships among the various parts of the Earth’s ecology. Experimenting with plants is also an excellent introduc­tion to change the year’s theme. As students watch their seeds grow into plants, they observe changes from day to day and week to week.

Your students will play a variety of roles in their explorations of plants and plants’ needs. They will be observant detectives, careful gardeners, thoughtful scientists, and probing reporters as they investigate plants and the things plants need to grow. Throughout, the focus is on the processes of sharing, challenging, and testing evidence of change.

36- Song: “Sun, Soil, Water, Air”

37- Introduction

38- Student Goals 

39- Activity Chart 

40- Unit Planner

41- Recommended Literature 

42- Parent Letter

43- Plant Detectives (distinguishing plants from non plants)

46- Plant Watchers (planting seeds or seedlings in pots)

50- Plant Care Planners (monitoring seeds; developing a plan for care)

54- Scientists at Work (testing an assumption about what plants need)

58- Plant Reporters (recording and discussing the results of the experiment)

Investigating Water (Originally Written For Second grade)

62- Song: ‘Water Cycle Boogie”

63- Introduction 

64- Student Goals 

65- Activity Chart 

66- Unit Planner

67- Recommended Literature 

68- Parent Letter

69- Investigating Water (using tools to explore water’s properties)

73- Shape Changers (predicting and testing how fast ice cubes melt)

77- Now You See It (investigating rates of evaporation)

80- Water from the Air (investigating condensation)

83- Mini-Terrariums (using plants to test evaporation and condensation)

87- A Book of Water (creating a class book about water)

Investigating Air (Originally Written For Second grade)

Theme: Students explore the various ways air changes, moves, and affects objects. 

Science Explorations: Students investigate air as a natural resource that all living things need. 

Process Skills: Students apply their observation skills to predicting change.

In this unit, students explore Life, Earth, and Physical science concepts through activities that focus on observing air and predict­ing its movements. 

Life Science: Almost all living things need air to grow. 

Earth Science: Air surrounds the Earth. 

Physical Science: Air has properties that can be observed and recorded; air occupies space, has weight, and moves and changes. 

Science, Technology, and Society: Air can become polluted.

We can’t taste it, see it, or smell it. We are often unaware of its presence unless it is moving. Yet we cannot survive without it. Air is one of our most valuable resources. Without it, Earth would be a lifeless, empty planet, a planet without plants, animals, or people. 

In this unit students explore air. Because it is invisible, air seems mysterious to many young children. Yet they know a lot about wind-air in motion. They understand that wind can lift a kite, blow away a hat, and even make a tree sway. Few, however, connect wind with air. In this unit, students test their ideas about air and wind in a variety of experiments and demonstrations. They become detectives looking for clues that prove air is real, even though it cannot be seen. 

As in other units, the theme is changed. Students explore the way air itself moves and how it affects a variety of objects. They investigate how the temperature of the air changes, and they discover the ways such substances as smoke and perfume can become a part of air. By the time they complete the unit, students will have a deeper understanding of air and its importance to living things. They also will know some of its properties. Through investigation they learn, for example, that air takes up space and has weight. 

As the children investigate air, they use a variety of scientific procedures and tools. They learn how to use a balance scale. to weigh air and other substances. They also learn to read a thermom­eter to find the temperature of both air and water. At the same time, students become more familiar with the scientific method. They learn to make thoughtful predictions, test ideas, and weigh evi­dence as they revise their ideas about the world around them and develop new insights.

92- Song: “Sun, Soil, Water, Air” 

93- Introduction 

94- Student Goals

95- Activity Chart

96- Unit Planner

97- Recommended Literature

98-Parent Letter

99- Air Detectives (investigating air movement)

102- A Space Case (trapping air underwater)

106- Heavy as Air (weighing the air in balloons)

109- A Matter of Degreed (using a thermometer to measure air temperatures)

113- Breathing Space (measuring lung expansion and contraction)

116- Blowing in the Wind (using breath to move small objects)

119- What’s in the Air? (observing that different substances can become part of the air)

122- Visitors from Another Planet (reviewing what students have learned about air)

Investigating Food (Originally Written For Second grade)

126- Song: “Dirt Made My Lunch”

127- Introduction

128- Student Goals

129- Activity Chart 

130- Unit Planner

131- Recommended Literature

132- Parent Letter 

133- Lunch Lines (tracing food items to their sources)

136- Running on Empty (discovering why humans need food)

139- Eating Right (sorting foods; identifying a balanced diet) 

143- Flour Power(investigating grains; grinding wheat into flour)

146- From Fruit to Sauce (investigating fruits and

vegetables; making applesauce)

149- Found a Peanut (investigating protein food; making peanut butter) 

152- Made from Scratch (making a meal from the foods students processed)

155- Lunchtime Planning (planning healthy menus)

Investigating Food Chains (Originally Written For Second Grade)

Theme: Students observe patterns of change in the garden. These changes.are caused by animals feeding on other living things 

Science Explorations: Students investigate the parts of a food chain and how each organism gets its food. 

Process Skills: Students categorize living things according to their role in a food chain and observe the way living things affect the garden. 

In this unit, students explore a variety of Life, Earth, and Physical science concepts through activities that focus on observing and understanding a food chain as a pattern of change in the garden. 

Life Science: All living things must have energy and nutrients to survive. Energy and nutrients pass through a food chain; while plants make their own food, animals get energy by eating plants or other animals. 

Earth Science: The physical environment provides resources needed by living things. 

Physical Science: The sun is a source of energy, and energy makes things work. 

Science, Technology, Society: When we eat, we are part of a food chain.

A garden is a solar restaurant: from air, water, nutrients, and sunlight plants produce the food on which animals dine. This unit is about the transfer of food energy from green plants (producers) to other organisms (consumers). Without the transformation of sunlight into food energy and the transfer of food energy from one organism to another, there would be no life on Earth as we know it. All living things need energy to survive. 

In the last unit students discovered that food provides people with energy, that people need different kinds of food to be healthy, and that many of the foods they eat come from the garden. In this unit they learn that different kinds of living things need different kinds of food energy to survive. They also learn that the food supply of every living thing is linked to the rest of the world. The sun gives plants energy; herbivores eat plants; carnivores eat herbivores; omnivores eat both plants and animals; and decomposers feed on once-living things, helping to release nutrients into the soil so that plants can start the cycle over again. 

The transfer of energy from organism to organism can be viewed as a food chain. As students explore the various links in the chain and classify organisms according to where they get their energy, they discover the roles these organisms play in the garden ecosystem. The garden is an invaluable resource in explaining a food chain. There, students observe the systems that allow plants and animals to live, grow, and nourish one another in a constant process of change, of living and dying. The best time to do the activities in this unit is in the spring, when plants and animals abound. If you teach it at another time of the year, you will find a terrarium essential.

160- Song: “Decomposition”

161- Introduction 

162- Student Goals 

163- Activity Chart 

164- Unit Planner

165- Recommended Literature 

166- Parent Letter 

167- Chain of Foods (looking for evidence of a food chain in the garden)

169- Food Machines (transplanting seedlings; thinking about plants as food)

172- Who’s Been Eating My Garden? (investigating herbivores in the garden)

175- Bugs for Breakfast (investigating carnivores in the garden)

178- Life Underground (digging for decomposers the garden)

182- Anything-Eaters (analyzing lunch; determining humans’ role in the food chain)

185- Energy Relay (running a relay race to mimic the Food chain)

188- Life Goes Around (reviewing in a skit what students have learned about food chains)

Investigating Resources (Originally Written For Second grade)

Theme: Students explore how natural resources change as they are used by humans and other living things. 

Science Explorations: Students investigate the ways that living things use natural resources, and they develop plans to conserve some resources. 

Process Skills: Students predict and communicate changes. They also categorize resources by source.

In this unit students explore a variety of Life, Earth, and Physical science concepts related to resources and the ways in which people use resources. 

Life Science: Living things need certain resources to survive and grow. Humans use plants and animals as resources. 

Earth Science: Human use of non living resources such as water affects the physical environment. 

Physical Science: Change can be measured. 

Science, Technology, and Society: Everything that is manufac­tured and used by humans ultimately comes from natural re­sources.

Do books grow on trees? What about money? In the last unit students discovered how we turn plants into food. In this unit they investigate some of the many ways we use resources to produce not only bread, but also a variety of other products. Thus, they expand their exploration of natural resources and discover that everything we make can be traced to a natural resource. In that sense, books really do grow on trees and so do dollar bills.

The unit begins with two questions: What are natural resources, and how do people use them? Students learn that a natural resource is any part of nature that is useful or necessary for life. And humans have found endless ways to use natural resources. The year’s theme of change fits naturally into the unit, as students discover the ways we alter or process natural resources in order to create the things we need and want. The unit also develops the idea that how we use a resource matters. Students consider how our use of resources affects not only the way we live, but also other living things. In the next unit students will explore in greater depth concepts related to conservation.

192- Song: “Ecology”

193- Introduction

194- Student Goals 

195- Activity Chart 

196- Unit Planner 

197- Recommended Literature

198- Parent Letter

199- What’s Its Use? (defining what is a natural resource).

203- Weeds’ Needs (setting up an experiment on plant crowding)

207- Tree Tales (identifying different ways people use trees)

210- Papered Over (paper-making with recycled paper)

214- Piles of Paper (setting up a recycling center; developing a paper-conservation plan) 

217- The Three R’s Club (creating a “talk show”presentation on conserving resources)

Conserving Resources (Originally Written For Second grade)

Theme: Students explore the way resources change as they are processed and used. 

Science Explorations: Students investigate the ways people use resources and implement plans for conserving some resources in their school and garden. 

Process Skills: Students demonstrate their knowledge of the Guess­-Test-Tell process and demonstrate skill in making predictions and categorizing information.

Students explore a variety of concepts in this unit related to conser­vation and protection of resources. 

Life Science: Living things are interdependent. Human use of resources has an impact on other living things. Wise resource use will save resources. 

Earth Science: Human use of resources changes the physical envi­ronment. Humans can conserve and recycle the Earth’s limited resources. 

Physical Science: Change can be measured. 

Science, Technology, and Society: Humans can conserve natural resources.

After a year of studying resources, students discover ways to use those resources wisely. They experiment with water conservation, create devices to meet plants’ needs, learn about composting, and, in the process, develop their own vision of wise resource use. As they investigate, you will have many opportunities to assess their mastery of the Guess-Test-Tell method, as well as their ability to use prior knowledge in making predictions and their ability to develop meaningful categories for sorting objects and ideas.

In earlier units, students discovered that we, like all other living things, consume resources. Every object we make or use-from the tallest skyscraper and the most complex machine to the simplest food-can be traced to one or more natural resources. If we are not careful about the ways we use those resources, life on Earth will be threatened. We therefore have a responsibility to conserve and protect resources. The activities in this unit help students apply their understanding of resources to the impact of changes in the ways various resources are used. As students investigate those alterations, they explore yet another aspect of change, which is this year’s theme.

Anyone who has ever been nagged by a child about a bad habit knows just how great a force for social change a child can be. As they learn more about the actions they can take to recycle, reuse, and consume wisely, your students may be eager to set up a class project in conservation. Support their efforts. The unit includes a wide variety of suggestions for class, school, and community projects.

222- Song: “Nature Rap” 

223- Introduction 

224- Student Goals 

225- Activity Chart 

226- Unit Planner

227- Recommended Literature

228- Parent Letter

229- WE CARE! (identifying an environmental issue and possible solutions) 

232- Water Watchers (analyzing use and misuse of water) 

235- ThirstyGarden (determining whether using mulch saves water in the garden)

239- Garbage Inventions (inventing ways to help plants grow)

243- A Toast to Compost (making and maintaining a compost pile)

246- Message to the Future (creating a class conservation plan and book)

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