The Needs of Living Things

WGBH Educational Foundation
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Image/Image Set , Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



Students watch video clips of animals and plants in their natural environments to determine what living things need to survive. They will then complete an illustration of their own real or imagined plant or animal fulfilling one or more of their needs for survival, within their natural environment. While this lesson does a good job explaining how animals meet their needs through their environments, additional lessons and experiences with plants would need to be provided in order to meet the full standard.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Elementary School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

K-LS1-1 Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.

Clarification Statement: Examples of patterns could include that animals need to take in food but plants do not; the different kinds of food needed by different types of animals; the requirement of plants to have light; and, that all living things need water.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Be sure to include both Parts I and II in the lesson in order to fulfill the performance expectation. Emphasize that the needs are being met to ensure survival. Since the videos are short one should add additional examples through other videos or books to give a wider picture of what animals and plants need to survive. To extend the experience with the performance expectation have students create the Biome in a Bag as explained in the provided video. However, young children may not perceive water recycling within the biome and may misconceive how plants are getting the water they need. A simple plant growth experiment would give students a more explicit example of what plants need to survive. Plant the same type of seed in in four different conditions (in dark without water, in dark with water, in light with no water, and in light with water). Have students record their observations over time.Teachers will need to re- emphasize the needs of living things throughout both parts of the lesson. Use of class record charts and strategies such as writing frames are strongly encouraged in order for students to record their thinking, as a reference for further explanations, and to look for patterns among plants and animals (compare and contrast).

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Although the idea of "patterns" is not explicitly expressed, it can be made more explicit through having students express and discuss the way plants and animals obtain what they need to survive, i.e. animals need to take in food but plants do not, the different kinds of food needed by different kinds of animals, the requirement of plants to have light, etc. To address the second part of the practice have students compare and contrast plant eaters to meat eaters. Help students make connections between their environment and their needs. All animals need food, some are carnivores, some omnivorous, some herbivorous - how might their specific food needs influence where they live? Be sure to point these ideas out during the videos and with additional resources. Check for understanding by having students draw an animal in its environment including its needs for survival. Then have students explain their drawings to each other. Guide the explanations with questions about what the animal's needs are and how it fulfills them. Display all the pictures and ask students to describe patterns (with regard to animal, need, environment) they see among all the drawings.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The videos used as a part of this lesson provide ample opportunities for students to observe ways animals obtain their needs. It may be wise to view videos several times and tie them into other resources (books, pictures) and to reinforce the idea through guided questions such as - What type food do they need? Where are they getting the food? What does the food provide for the (plant or animal)? The simple plant experiment mentioned in the performance expectation section of this review will also reinforce this core idea.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The beaver video addresses this disciplinary core idea well, however the instructor needs to use guiding questions in order to get students to notice and discuss the changes being made and the way animals may manipulate their environment in order to provide for their needs. It is more challenging to show how plants can change their environment since it usually takes place over time. The biome in a bag activity may be hard for young children to see how plants change their environment. Using the example of tree roots growing out of the ground, either through pictures, or out in the school yard, may be a more concrete example. Time-laps videos, pictures, or books that show growth over time of trees, weeds taking over a field, or invasive plant life in a pond could also reinforce this core idea.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Explicitly referring to and asking students to identify and record the patterns they see while observing the videos will help emphasize this crosscutting concept. Otherwise, students may be able to identify patterns within a specific type of living thing, but not immediately notice or identify patterns across different kinds of living things. It will be helpful to model (think aloud strategies) how using the patterns they have observed can be used as evidence for reasoning how plants and animals interact with their environment.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Students use observations to identify and describe patterns of how plants and animals obtain their needs in their environment and construct opinions based on evidence from the videos they view. Young children could complete the optional activity or the simple experiment suggested with assistance which would strengthen the communication parts of the scientific practices. There are some adjustments that should be made to accommodate a young learner but with effective questions and guidance young children can achieve the expectations of the standard.

  • Instructional Supports: The videos engage the students in real-life phenomena however, it is highly dependent on effective questioning and eliciting explanations from students. Allowing for ample discussion throughout the lesson will enable students to make connections to their own, and others', ideas and prior knowledge. The activities are accessible to all learners with little adjustment. Since it is a guided activity, the teacher can utilize instructional supports when necessary and allow students to participate and respond at their own level.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The resource does not provide an assessment opportunity for young children other than formative, through monitoring student discussion and their record of observations in order to provide feedback. The instructor would need to create an appropriate assessment.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: While the videos are high quality, engaging, and provide a meaningful connection to the topic, there is no interactive component aside form watching the videos and discussing their content. As a side note: successful streaming will depend on the users' connection and having the necessary software (i.e. flashplayer, etc.) to stream the videos.