As a first grade teacher in a self-contained classroom in New Haven, I have a class of 26 mostly six- and seven-year-olds. Our neighborhood/magnet school setting is a rewarding environment, with students coming to school each day from a variety of home circumstances and with differences in academic levels. As a result of these variables, the children have differing levels of background knowledge and life experiences.
First graders in our district learn about living organisms. The goal of the unit of study is to discover that living things have different structures and behaviors that allow them to meet their basic needs. This is an exciting subject and a terrific eight weeks of learning about changes for the students, and for me as well. These changes are an introduction to the cycles of life -- seeds grow roots, then stems and leaves, and possibly flowers; fish grow larger, lay eggs, and new fish appear! These are new experiences for many students. Bacterial life cycles can be added and are really different in being so short--E.coli can be as fast as 20 minutes!
The district curriculum involves building a terrarium, with various plants, worms, and bugs; creating an aquatic environment for guppies, snails and plants; and planting a variety of seeds. Young children are natural scientists with questions and curiosity. The objective of this unit is to provide students with the opportunity to learn about life on earth, including aspects of the microbial world, through relevant exploration and discovery of the five systems that will be used in the Life Science curriculum.