Planning to teach about life cycles?

Child looks in garden box for signs of sprouting seeds.There is something about the changes in the natural world due to seasonal changes in spring time that inspire us to talk about baby plants, baby birds, and baby anything. During a warm spell in January I was inspired to refurbish the garden box on the playground with some new potting soil and have all the children plant greens of various kinds by taking a pinch of the tiny seeds, sprinkling them on the soil and patting them in. Sprouting mustard greens and arugula.The warm days gave way to colder with a few below freezing, and then back up to warm. I was happily surprised to see tiny sprouts a month later because the temperature has stayed on the cold side, mostly below 40*F. Amazing how seeds sprout when the conditions are right for growth! By noticing when and where different plants grow, children are building a beginning understanding of the adaptation of a species of a living organisms to an environment.
Cover of the February 2013 issue of Science and ChildrenThe February 2013 issue of Science and Children has many articles for early childhood on exploring life cycles and other concepts in life science (see entire table of contents below or here). I read the articles dealing with older students in upper elementary too, because I learn science teaching methods and scientific information that shapes what I teach. Knowing what older students are capable of keeps me from trying to move the young children along too fast, and it helps me see what they are capable of doing and learning in science.
Talking about life science, I see that Patty Born Selly has a post on the Small Wonders blog about talking with children about one point on the cycle of life, death. When her children discovered a dead squirrel in the snow she allowed them to investigate and talk about death. It was an opportunity to use their observations as evidence for their ideas on why the squirrel was dead. As part of the life cycle we shouldn’t hide death from our children.
What are your plans for teaching about the needs of living organisms and how they change as they grow? Life cycles may not be in national or state standards to be taught in full until grade five, but understanding life cycles begins with prior experiences of caring for and observing living organisms. Maybe a child’s question will be the “seed” that grows into a science inquiry about the life cycle of a plant or animal.
Science and Children, February 2013, Vol. 50 No. 6
Compost: The Rot Thing for Our Earth
By: Fred Estes and Carolee Fucigna
A yearlong classroom project encourages scientific practices and knowledge about ecology.
Does What I Eat and Drink Affect My Teeth?
By: Sherri Lynne Brown
A trip to the Philippines inspires a 5E learning cycle that connects common acids and bases to dental health for students.
Free – Editor’s Note: Life Cycles
By: Linda Froschauer
Science and Children’s editor shares thoughts regarding the current issue
Formative Assessment Probes: Labeling Versus Explaining
By: Page Keeley
This column focuses on promoting learning through assessment. This month’s issue discusses the life cycle of a butterfly.
Free – Indoor-Outdoor Science
By: Jyoti Gopal and Ella Pastor
A kindergarten science curriculum develops life science investigations in and around school.
Making Connections Through Conversation
By: Julie McGough and Lisa Nyberg
First graders explore the circle of life through observations of animals in their habitats.
Methods and Strategies: I Wonder…
By: Anne Stevenson
This column provides ideas and techniques to enhance your science teaching. This month’s issue discusses how “I Wonder” boards serve as a springboard for scientific investigations
Plants, Alike and Different
By: Kathy Cabe Trundle, Katherine N. Mollohan, and Mandy McCormick Smith
The authors planned investigations and taught science lessons that help children extend natural comparisons of physical properties of humans and familiar animals to include observations and comparisons of the physical properties of plants and insects, laying a foundation for future understanding of inheritance of traits.
Science 101: How Do Earthworms Function?
By: Bill Robertson
This column provides background science information for elementary teachers. In this month’s issue the author discusses the different systems of earthworms
Teaching Through Trade Books: Figuring Out Food Chains
By: Christine Anne Royce
This column includes activities inspired by children’s literature. In this month’s issue students investigate and construct models of food chains or food webs to help them grasp the core idea
Free – The Next Generation Science Standards and the Life Sciences
By: Rodger W. Bybee
Using the life sciences, this article first reviews essential features of the NRC Framework for K–12 Science Education that provided a foundation for the new standards. Second, the article describes the important features of life science standards for elementary, middle, and high school levels. Finally, several implications of the new standards are discussed.
The Early Years: “Life” Science
By: Peggy Ashbrook
This column discusses resources and science topics related to students in grades preK to 2. This month’s issue discusses the complete life cycle of a plant
The Wonder of Worms
By: Cynthia Smith and Melinda Landry
To guide kindergarteners in developing a deeper understanding of an earthworm’s life cycle, its feeding habits, and its role as a decomposer, the authors designed an inquiry-based unit focused on red wigglers.

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