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Lesson Plan #:AELP-ANM000
Submitted by: Diane E. Althouse, Notre Dame, Vacaville, CA
Endorsed by: These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.
Date: May 1994

Grade Level(s): 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8


  • Science/Animals

OVERVIEW: Almost every elementary school child has had the opportunity to directly observe the stages in the life of a plant or an animal. Since most children have seen a puppy or kitten turn into the adult dog or cat it was destined to become, this unit focuses on the diversity in change around us. To the young student, these observations are often like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, somewhat interesting as individual bits of information, but difficult to assemble into a coherent picture. With instruction, the pieces are brought together. The study of the life cycles of different species helps put into perspective many aspects of human development, a topic that is often the subject of youthful curiosity. The connections are made between various real life experiences and, more often than not, the result is enthusiastic understanding.


This is a unit in the LIFE SCIENCES. By doing these activities, students will learn that all living things are born, grow and change; consume water and food, and die. This process is commonly known as the LIFE CYCLE. Hands-on experiences as well as creative writing, art-related and cognitive activities are used to demonstrate the beauty and complexity of the transitions all of life must go through.


The students will be able to:

1. Compare and contrast the life cycles of different species.
2. Recognize a similarity in the basic needs of all living organisms and how they effect their own environment.
3. Evaluate their relationship with other forms of life and the need to preserve them.


Activities for an animal life cycles unit are diverse and just about endless. Be creative and open. Work in groups and as individuals. Study together in the classroom and explore the great outdoors. Study books and bring in the experts. Most living specimens may be either purchased locally at pet shops, school biological supply companies or captured outdoors. Journals or other record keeping devices should be used which include life cycle charts, descriptions and measurements where appropriate. Here are a few activities to get you rolling….

The Life Cycle in Reality/Hands-On Experiences

1. Set up an aquarium for raising brine shrimp (sea monkeys). Brine shrimp are related to crabs and lobsters in a group commonly known as crustaceans.
2. For each student or study group, place two or three mealworms in a capped jar. Provide the mealworms with bran and a slice of raw potato or apple. The mealworm is the larva stage of a beetle. Before reaching this final step in the metamorphosis, the mealworm goes through a pupa stage that resembles neither the worm or beetle developmental periods.
3. Fertilized frog eggs are usually easy to find or purchase. Place them in an aquarium and observe each day. Tadpoles hatch from frog eggs in a week to ten days and the process from tadpole to frog is fascinating to observe.
4. Incubate fertilized chicken eggs. The period of incubation for chicks is twenty one days. Hold the eggs to your ears periodically. Days before hatching you will be able to hear the chicks peeping inside. Some teachers will open an egg every day or so, to show the developing embryo in various stages of growth. The age of the students and the guidelines set by local animal rights organizations must be a consideration. The baby chicks should also be given a proper home shortly after birth.
5. Keep open the possibility of real-life experiences that may occur close to home. Thanks to the great accessibility of video camera equipment, someone might be able to record the live birth of an organism such as a kitten, calf or if you are really lucky, the birth of a human baby. Once again, make sure the material is appropriate for the age group and parental permission is advised.

Art/Art-Related Activities

All children are different and have varied talents. A unit should include as many aspects of creativity and learning as possible. These projects would focus on the child expressing himself/herself in an artistic manner. Some suggestions are making a set of animal identification cards, designing a life cycles mural, creating posters, making slides and overhead transparencies and creating a new organism.

Language Arts:

The word can be a creative way to express the facts observed, researched and learned. Try some of these activities…
1. Pretend you are one of the creatures observed or researched. Write your life story, making certain you mention your life cycle somewhere in your tale.
2. If you had to be an organism that was studied, which one would you choose to be? Support your choice with scientific facts you learned, combined with personal reasons.
3. Write a letter to an organization devoted to the care of animals or the preservation of animals in danger of extinction. Ask for information about the animal, its life cycle or suggestions on how you can help. Some possible places to start include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, World Wildlife Fund, and National Audubon Society.
4. In your opinion, what is the most successful organism in terms of the life cycle it goes through? Summarize your choice in a good paragraph.
5. Write poems, create a play, or organize a debate.


No special resources needed.


The diversity of available resources makes the study of LIFE CYCLES one of the best opportunities for exciting and creative instruction. From videos and field trips to expert lecturers and art projects, the material is there to challenge the best of students. Indeed, even instructors with many years experience learn new fun facts almost every year. The enthusiasm generated when the light bulbs of understanding click-on can have a long-lasting impact throughout the spectrum of an individual’s scholastic endeavors. This subject area lays one of the corner stones for future study of the complexities of the LIFE SCIENCES. As our society grows more dependent on high technology, the decision-makers, the voting public and the leaders of tomorrow can ill afford limited exposure to, and comprehension of, the biological threads that make up the web of life on planet Earth.