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Animals | Activity 2.1

Activity 2.1: Zooming into Plants, Animals, and Decomposers (40 min)

Students view animations that “zoom into” plants, animals, and decomposers. They write their ideas, and then discuss ways in which these three kinds of organisms are alike and different. In particular, they note that all organisms have similarities in structure (they are made of cells which are made of molecules) and function (they grow, need and use energy, and move and change matter). They then focus specifically on cells, discussing how they do the work of organisms and asking questions to be answered later in the unit.

Resources Provided


Print one copy of 2.1 Comparing Plants, Animals, and Decomposers Worksheet and 2.1 Cells: The Building Blocks of Organisms Reading (optional) for each student. If you do not have the Three Questions 11x17 Poster on the wall from the Systems and Scale unit, print it and put it up. If you decide to have students explore the Powers of 10 sliders (Slide 10 of the 2.1 Zooming Into Plants, Animals, and Decomposers PPT), make sure that they have access to laptops or other computers.


1. Use the instructional model to show students where they are in the course of the unit.


Use 2.1 Assessing the Comparing Plants, Animals, and Decomposers Worksheet to assess student responses. This worksheet is designed to elicit students’ ideas about similarities and differences among plants, animals, and decomposers. All students, though, should correct their placement of the numbered characteristics based on Slide 8.


Use the 2.1 Cells: The Building Blocks of Organisms Reading with students who have not had significant exposure to cells in prior classes.

Note the three options about how to engage students in discussing the size of cells Slide 10.

Extending the Learning

Slides 10-13 provide a VERY superficial introduction to cells, including information essential to tracing matter and energy through cellular processes, but nothing more. If your curriculum goes deeper into cell theory or into cell structure and function than these lessons, then you may want to consider adding activities, either here or in later lessons:

  • You can add information about specialized functions of different cells in association with Slide 12, discussing a wider range of organismal functions and how each one is carried out by cells acting in concert.
  • You can discuss organelles and their specialized functions either here or in later lessons focusing on cellular respiration (mitochondria), photosynthesis (chloroplasts), and biosynthesis (cell membrane, ribosomes).