Essential Science for Teachers: Life Science
Plant Life Cycles Plant Life Cycles: Featured Classroom – Sally Florkiewicz, Lakewood, CO
Sally Florkiewicz, Lakewood, CO
“The best part about teaching life science is that I think the kids really relate to it. It gives them a hands-on experience. They can actually sit and observe something and relate to it. Some of the other sciences are a little bit more abstract and they’re not able to have that hands-on experience, so it’s life science that they really enjoy.”
School at a Glance:
Glennon Heights Elementary School
- Enrollment: 257
- Students per Teacher: 15.9
1.5% American Indian
- Percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch: 18% versus a state average of 32%
Like Mary Bitterlich, Sally Florkiewicz teaches third grade in Glennon Heights in Lakewood, CO.
Sally says that the best part about teaching life science is that her students love it. “They’re natural little scientists,” she explains. “They’re always asking questions, always wondering, and always wanting to observe how things work.”
Lesson and Curriculum
Investigating Life Cycles; Science T.R.A.C.S.
Lesson at a Glance:
Curriculum: Science T.R.A.C.S. (Teaching Relevant Activities for Concepts and Skills), Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company
Topic: Life Cycles
Glennon Heights Elementary School uses the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study’s (BSCS) Science T.R.A.C.S. (Teaching Relevant Activities for Concepts and Skills) curriculum, which spans from kindergarten through fifth grade. Sally explained that in first and second grade, students learn about what plants and animals need for survival. In third grade, the focus becomes the life cycles of plants and animals.
For the video for Session 4, Sally’s students explored plant life cycles, the complement to the studies of the animal life cycles in Mary Bitterlich’s classroom (Session 3). Like Mary, Sally began by handing out pictures of various plants and animals, and asking the question: “What was it before?”
“ From looking at their posters and listening to them work, I felt that the kids understood that plants start out as seeds,” said Sally. She then handed out “mystery objects” – a brine shrimp egg and a seed that looked similar – and asked the students to figure out what they were. As a group, the class decided to place both objects in both saltwater and soil, and then wait to see which would thrive in each environment. Sally explained that she finds that the activity is a good way, first, to get her students thinking about the different environmental needs of plants and animals and, second, to allow them to contrast the life cycles of plants and animals.
After that, the class moved on to a study using Fast Plants, which are plants that have been developed to have a short life cycle. This allows students to make meaningful observations without having to wait through a typical plant life cycle.
In the activity featured in the video, Sally’s students examined the Fast Plants, which had begun flowering, to try to figure out what would happen next in their life cycle. In particular, she wanted them to think about where seeds come from. The students first observed the plants and then drew posters depicting their predictions.
After the lesson, Sally explained that her students needed more time to work on their ideas: “They had a clear understanding that the flower was somehow related to the seed, but many thought the seed would simply fall out of the flower,” she explained.
The goal of the study was for the students to understand the plant life cycle, and just a few days later, the Fast Plant’s seeds matured, allowing Sally’s students to observe where seeds originate.
Reflect on Your Teaching
Students observe and identify the life stages of a typical plant.
Students understand that plants progress through sequential stages that include a beginning, immature stages, and an adult stage
Consider the goals for this lesson as listed above. How can you create a lesson appropriate for your classroom that will fulfill similar goals?
Session 1 What Is Life?
What distinguishes living things from dead and nonliving things? No single characteristic is enough to define what is meant by "life." In this session, five characteristics are introduced as unifying themes in the living world.
Session 2 Classifying Living Things
How can we make sense of the living world? During this session, a systematic approach to biological classification is introduced as a starting point for understanding the nature of the remarkable diversity of life on Earth.
Session 3 Animal Life Cycles
One characteristic of all life forms is a life cycle — from reproduction in one generation to reproduction in the next. This session introduces life cycles by focusing on continuity of life in the Animal Kingdom. In addition to considering what aspects of life cycles can be observed directly, the underlying role of DNA as the hereditary material is explored.
Session 4 Plant Life Cycles
What is a plant? One distinguishing feature of members of the Plant Kingdom is their life cycle. In this session, flowering plants serve as examples for studying the plant life cycle by considering the roles of seeds, flowers, and fruits. A comparison to animal life cycles reveals some surprising similarities and intriguing differences.
Session 5 Variation, Adaptation, and Natural Selection
What causes variation among a population of living things? How can variation in one generation influence the next generation? In this session, variation in a population will be examined as the "raw material" upon which natural selection acts.
Sessions 6 Evolution and the Tree of Life
Why are there so many different kinds of living things? Comparing species that exist today reveals a lot about their relationships to one another and provides evidence of common origins. This session explores the theory of evolution: change in species over time.
Session 7 Energy Flow in Communities
Communities are populations of organisms that live and interact together. The structure of a community is defined by food web interactions. The process of energy flow is the focus of this session as the interactions between producers, consumers, and decomposers are examined.
Session 8 Material Cycles in Ecosystems
Studying an ecosystem involves looking at interactions between living things as well as the nonliving environment that surrounds them. Life depends upon the nonliving world for habitat, as well as energy and materials. In this session, material cycles will be explored as critical processes that sustain life in an ecosystem.