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Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning
Table 3-1. Excerpts from Life Science Standard, K-4
As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop understanding of
The characteristics of organisms
Organisms have basic needs. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs can be met. The world has many different environments, and distinct environments support the life of different types of organisms.
Each plant or animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction.
The behavior of individual organisms is influenced by internal cues (such as hunger) and by external cues (such as a change in the environment). Humans and other organisms have senses that help them detect internal and external cues.
Life cycles of organisms
Plants and animals have life cycles that include being born, developing into adults, reproducing, and eventually dying. The details of this life cycle are different for different organisms.
Plants and animals closely resemble their parents.
Many characteristics of an organism are inherited from the parents of the organism, but other characteristics result from an individual’s interactions with the environment.
Organisms and their environments
All animals depend on plants. Some animals eat plants for food. Other animals eat animals that eat the plants.
An organism’s patterns of behavior are related to the nature of that organism’s environment, including the kinds and numbers of other organisms present, the availability of food and resources, and the physical characteristics of the environment. When the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce, and others die or move to new locations.
All organisms cause changes in the environment where they live. Some of these changes are detrimental to the organism or other organisms, whereas others are beneficial (p. 129).
The discussion about worms could not have come at a better time, because Mrs. Flores was anticipating a series of lessons to help her students learn some of the basic ideas in the life science standard: characteristics of organisms, life cycles of organisms, and organisms and their environments (Table 3-1). Here was a context for doing so. She contacted a biological supply house and learned that she could order supplies of earthworms with egg cases and immature earthworms. Ms. Flores was delighted because this would enable the children to observe all stages in the worm’s life cycle and some of their habits.
She realized that it would take considerable time for the earthworms to grow, so she decided to include other learning outcomes as well. Her assessments of her students indicated that they needed to work on several of the abilities of inquiry, such as refining a question for investigation and designing an investigation (the abilities of inquiry are listed in Table 2-2 in the previous chapter). She also decided to incorporate some abilities of technological design from the science and technology standard,