Living Environment

Online Lesson Template

 Lesson Overview

The word organism refers to all living things. Non-living objects like rocks, are not organisms. Most of the organisms that students are familiar with include dogs, horse, and hamsters. However, not all organisms are animals. Plants, mushrooms, and little protozoa are all living. The definition for living is sometimes difficult to explain. Living creatures can reproduce and need nutrients to grow. Growth is not a defining characteristic. For instance, a crystal can grow, but that is not considered living.

In order for young children to start sorting and classifying organisms, they need to have experience with as many different types as possible. Students do not need to learn all the different groups of organisms, but they should start learning skills of sorting by different and distinguishing characteristics.


1. Show pictures or use objects in the classroom of living organisms and non-living objects. Go over careful what makes each one living or non-living. Also distinguish objects that may have been created from living objects (i.e. wooden chairs), but are no longer living. Reproduction is key in order for objects to be considered living. The ability to have "offsprings" or "babies" is a key ingredient for classifying something as "living." A living organism also requires nourishment to maintain its growth. The nourishment could include water, nutrients, food, or light.


It is not always an easy thing to tell the difference between living, dead, and non-living things. Prior to the 1600's many people believed that nonliving things could spontaneously turn into living things. For example, it was believed that piles of straw could turn into mice. That is obviously not the case. There are some very general rules to follow when trying to decide if something is living, dead, or non-living. Listed here are the six rules used by scientists:
Living things are made of cells.
*Living things obtain and use energy.
*Living things grow and develop.
Living things reproduce.
Living things respond to their environment.
*Living things adapt to their environment.

If something follows one or just a few of the rules listed above, it does not necessarily mean that it is living. To be considered alive, an object must exhibit all of the characteristics of living things. Sugar crystals growing on the bottom of a syrup container is a good example of a nonliving object that displays at least one criteria for living organisms.

Can you think of some other examples of nonliving objects displaying living characteristics?

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