Is Natural? is actually four activities in one inquiry. In Thinking
about What Is Natural, students use a Thinksheet to think through
their own concept of "natural." In What Is Natural Outdoors?
students explore an outdoor environment and classify found objects as abiota
(nonliving), biota (living), natural, and nonnatural. In What
Is a Matter Cycle? students use matter cycle graphic organizers in
order to establish a connection between manufactured products and the earth's
natural resources. In How Are Matter Cycles a Part of My Everyday Environment?
students create matter cycles for objects that they use everyday. The Family
Page extends this learning to the community by providing families with
challenges to explore at home.
1: Thinking about What Is Natural (45 min.)
- Copy a class
set of the Thinksheet and Family Page. (See Ready to
- Gather several
objects for display in the front of the room (i.e., plant, rock, soil,
shoe, glass bottle, plastic jar, worm). Note: Try to have a mixture of
living, nonliving, "natural", and "unnatural" (human-made)
- Review Related
Resources and order/gather those you will use during the investigation.
- Select a
"natural" environment for study (i.e., forest, field, pond, etc.).
- Select an
"unnatural" environment for study (i.e., classroom, etc.).
- Decide how
you will evaluate progress during and after the lesson. (Suggestions are
provided at the end of the lesson.)
- Introduce What
is Natural? to your students. This activity challenges you to:
about which objects are natural
- classify objects
as abiotic (nonliving) or biotic (living) (future photo)
- trace human
products to their natural resources using matter cycles (See
- create your
own definition of nature (natural) through observation, classification,
- Tell students
what behaviors you expect of them before, during, and after the lesson.
- scientific thinking
- respectful listening
- speaking in
- Explain how
the activity is grouped:
- a whole class
- an outdoor and
- a whole class
- an assessment
- Display several
objects in the front of the room (i.e., plant, rock, soil, shoe, glass
bottle, plastic jar, worm). Ask three or four students to classify
these objects into two groups: living and nonliving (future photo).
Discuss the characteristics of living things. (See Background
the terms biota and abiota. (See Background
the questions in the "Think it Through" section of the Thinksheet.
Answers will vary.
Have students Think/Pair/Share their responses.
Reread responses silently.
Share responses with a partner.
: Discuss responses as a class.
the chart in the "Think it Through" section by having students
reclassify the objects in front of the room as either natural or non-natural.
Note: Keep these
items for use at the end of the lesson.
Students record their hypotheses on the Thinksheets.
hypotheses aloud. Stress that a good hypothesis may or may not be right,
Day 2: What Is
Natural Outdoors? (45 min.)
two Data Sheets for each student. Enviro-Note: Make two-sided copies.
(See Ready to Print.)
the following materials (optional):
- One ZipLoc
bag per student to collect abiota for samples or biota for short
term observation (Click here for
- Review the main points
of yesterday's lesson.
the Data Sheet. Explain that it will be
used to collect data during the Outdoor Environment hike.
- Distribute materials
(optional) and discuss appropriate use.
Environment ("natural" environment): Go to the selected environment(s)
of study, pausing to allow students to individually record observations
on their Data Sheets. NOTE: Point out human products (i.e., aluminum
can, water fountain, plastic wrapper, etc.) that ALL students will record
on their Data Sheets. Try to get one of each type (glass, plastic, metal,
wood). (future photo)
- Classroom Discussion
- Have students share
aloud abiota they found.
- Have students share
aloud biota they found.
- Have students share
aloud objects which are "natural."
- Record for display
objects which are "unnatural." Direct students to record these objects
on their Data Sheet.
- Challenge students
to think of a way that these unnatural objects might be considered natural.
- Distribute the
Day 3: What Is a Matter
Cycle? (45 min.)
overhead transparencies of Matter Cycle pages for use during class discussion.
an "unnatural" object from the display that is made from either metal,
glass, wood, or plastic. Note: A plastic wrapper will be used to illustrate
class discussion below, but any "unnatural" object will work.
Have students construct a matter cycle with you that shows a connection
to nature. Choose the appropriate overhead transparency master below:
to each place in the cycle and ask students to determine whether or not
this part of the cycle is a "natural" part. (i.e., "Raise your hand if
you think the earth is natural...Raise your hand if you think prehistoric
plants and animals were natural... Raise your hand if you think petroleum
from these plants and animals is natural...Raise your hand if you think
a plastic wrapper from this petroleum is natural.")
many students to consider human products to be unnatural. Ask students
to explain their reasoning. A common response is that the wrapper
was "manufactured" or "made in a factory."
students reconstruct the Plastic Matter Cycle on a piece of paper.
to each place in the cycle and ask students to vote whether or not this
part of the cycle is a "natural" part. Expect students to agree
that ALL parts are natural. Point out to the students that the hornet
also manufactures a product (paper) for a factory (the nest),
in a factory (its body)! This product does not look like the beginning
students reconstruct the Paper Wasp Matter Cycle on a piece of paper.
another vote on the plastic wrapper. Discuss how this vote compares
to the original vote. Expect fewer students to call the wrapper
"unnatural." Ask students who changed their vote to explain their
the remaining "unnatural" objects using the above discussion format.
Ask students if they think any of these cannot be connected to natural
resources. Construct matter cycles, vote, and discuss. (See matter
cycle links above.)
the Beaver Matter Cycle. Ask how
this matter cycle is similar to the cycles created using "unnatural" objects.
Point out to students that beavers, just like human beings, often change
the environment through their actions (i.e., flooding, tree cutting, etc.).
students to their second Data Sheet
(for use indoors).
- Indoor Environment
("unnatural" environment): Go to the selected environment(s) of study, pausing
to allow students to individually record observations on their Data Sheets.
NOTE: Point out human products (i.e., aluminum can, water fountain,
plastic wrapper, etc.) that ALL students will record on their Data Sheets.
Try to get one of each type (glass, plastic, metal, wood). (future
- Classroom Discussion
- Have students
share aloud abiota they found
students share aloud biota they found.
students share aloud objects which are "natural."
for display objects which are "unnatural." Direct students to
record these objects on their Data Sheet.
how this list of "unnatural" items compares with the
list from the Outdoor Environment.
Tip: Put student names on 2"x2" squares of construction paper.
Choose from these cards and allow students to pass or play when called to
improve total class participation during discussion.
How Are Matter Cycles a Part of My Everyday Environment? (45 min.)
- Review the Internet game
On the Resource Trail (see Related Resources).
Bookmark this game on your classroom computer so you can rotate students through
it over the next several days.
- Preread the book And
So They Build and decide if you want to read part or all of the stories
aloud to your students. (See Related Resources.)
- Copy a class set of Student
Matter Cycles. (See Ready to Print.)
- Gather students around
a classroom computer. Note: If possible, have students work in pairs at a
- Play On the Resource
Trail (see Related Resources) and discuss. Point
out the flaw of the program (some choices have more than one right answer,
but only one answer is considered correct). If using a classroom computer,
rotate students through this program in pairs over the next several days.
- Discuss how this Internet
activity relates to this investigation.
- Introduce the term natural
resource (see Background Information).
- Distribute Student Matter
Cycles and discuss.
- Challenge students to
think of objects that are a part of their everyday environment and come from
natural resources (ex. shirt, shoes, car, etc.).
- Point out how these objects
(in part or whole) can be traced back to one of the matter cycles on the Student
Matter Cycles page.
- Direct students to draw
two matter cycles for two different objects that are part of their everyday
environment using the Student Matter Cycles page as a guide.
PutItAllTogether (45 min.)
- Summarize the
- Every environment
contains biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) components.
- Living things
- A matter cycle
is a way of showing the history and future of various matter. Matter cycles
can be constructed for any solid, liquid, or gas object found on the earth.
- Human and nonhuman
products come from natural resources.
- Complete the
"Make Sense of It" section of the Thinksheet.
- Resort objects
from the beginning of the lesson.
- Revise hypothesis.
students for appropriate behaviors during the lesson.
- Share Rationale:
Students need to know that humans and nature are interconnected. Humans
and their products are from the earth's resources and will return to the
earth's resources. Once students understand that everything around them
has a "natural history," everyday objects begin to have a deeper significance.
Stewardship becomes possible.
anecdotal notes of teams in progress, incidental questioning of
students' rationale for what they are doing (during activity), observation
of teamwork, status of the class (end of each unfinished activity day)
Choose one or more of the following (see Ready
- Higher Level
- Team Evaluation