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
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.
- 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.
- Ask students to name one living organism
and one non-living object at their house. You may want to make a list. Discuss
the characteristic that they think makes it’s a living object. It may be
difficult for a student to see reproduction in many things. Plants for
instance have seeds, but a rug cannot make little rugs by itself. A rug does
not nourish itself, but a plant requires light, water, and nutrients. Go over
the words over and over again, with each of the children’s story.
- Use the worksheet for the students to
determine what is living and non living. Instruct students to draw a line to
the appropriate word.
- Ask students that if they could bring in
a picture or photo of something living at their house. It could be a pet, a
plant, or a sibling. You may want to take the students outside and discuss
what is living and not living outside.