skip to main content

Leading adult education through support for and the effective application of technology.

Exploratorium Museum: Characteristics of Living Things

Example Web Site and/or Technical Equipment Required

Website: http://www.exploratorium.edu/

Website Example: http://www.exploratorium.edu/imaging-station/activities/classroom/characteristics/ca_characteristics.php

Tech Product Equipment

Computer(s), Internet access, optional projector (for class presentation)

Activity Description

In this activity, students learn to recognize and describe the characteristics of living organisms. Students view several different short videos and complete a worksheet identifying the characteristics of life observed in each video.

In the microscope imaging station (see link in the Example Web Site above), you will introduce students to unique life science activities that let them work with the research-quality microscopic images and videos. In the Flipbooks section, you can use printable images from the time-lapse movies to make flipbooks (handheld animations that students can make at home).

 

Preparation

  1. Be sure the links and the site are still active and available at your school on the equipment you plan to use.
  2. Depending on which activity you choose you may need to make the Word handout available live on their computers, by giving them the link to the document, as it contains links to videos and online information. (Other activities may let you print out a handout.)
  3. Be prepared to review with students the observable characteristics of living things.
  4. Review with students these six easily observable characteristics of living things:
  • movement (which may occur internally, or even at the cellular level)
  • growth and development
  • response to stimuli
  • reproduction
  • use of energy
  • cellular structure

How-To

  1. Review with students these six easily observable characteristics of living things:
    • movement (which may occur internally, or even at the cellular level)
    • growth and development
    • response to stimuli
    • reproduction
    • use of energy
    • cellular structure
  2. Go to the Microscope Imaging Station by following the Web Site Example link above.
  3. Select the Activities tab then select Classroom Explorations.
  4. Inside the Classroom Explorations choose among the following options:
    • Characteristics of Living Things
    • What’s the Size of What You See?
    • Elodea Explorations
    • Model Organisms
    • Wild Type and Mutant
    • Genetic Crosses
    • Broken Hearts
    • Zebrafish Development
  5. The instructions for the activity will be found after you make your choice. For this activity we are choosing "Characteristics of Living Things."  There are student handouts with links to see videos of microscope observations. The student data table on the handout includes links to all the information and videos necessary to complete this activity.
  6. If you decide to make this an entire class activity rather than an individual activity, you will need to project the videos. To do this, open the student document on the Teacher's computer, then:
    • Select each link in the Category column on the data table. Students can take turns reading the introductions aloud.
    • Show the videos and have the students complete the data table for each organism.

Teacher Tips

Provide students with the URL for the student pages. They can use the links on the data table to access the text and videos and complete the activity independently.

More Ways

  • Have students conduct Internet research on "characteristics of life." Do all sources agree on the characteristics? Are there characteristics not covered in this activity? Do all scientists agree on a common list of "characteristics of life"?
  • What are the limitations of videos? Discuss which characteristics of life students are unable to identify in the videos. How might they be able to observe these characteristics in select organisms?
  • If all of the characteristics of life are required to classify something as "alive," how can we account for those individuals who are definitely alive, but that do not reproduce (for example, people without children or a sterile mule)?
  • Is a virus alive? Ask students to keep in mind the information from this activity, and to conduct Internet research to discover how scientists answer this question.

Have students work in pairs or groups to do research, report back and share or publish findings.

Select subjects and subcategories

Science

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science
  • General Science
  • Health and Life Science
  • Science Electives
Scroll To Top

OTAN activities are funded by contract CN200091-A2 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.