Out Teach
Life Science
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Upper Primary
  • Life Sciences
  • Life-Cycles
  • Needs of Organisms
  • Out Teach
  • Perennial Bed
  • Plants
  • Raised Bed
  • Science
  • Structure and Function
  • Vegetable Bed
  • ifthen
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    Education Standards

    Born This Way -- Out Teach

    Born This Way -- Out Teach


    Students will compare different plant traits and determine how each structure helps that species of plant grow and reproduce in the schoolyard habitat. After which, students can observe each plant for acquired traits.

    Background for Teachers

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    Students should know what living things are and what they need to survive from the study of organisms and environments. This lesson should be delivered during the time of year when plants are in the adult stage of their life cycle and producing leaves, fruit and flowers (late summer/spring). This standard could be explored further with other organisms found in the garden.

    Key Vocabulary

    • Structures

    • Functions

    • Species

    • Survive

    • Trait

    • Inherited/acquired traits

    • Learned/instinctive behavior

    Guiding Questions

    What is the primary role of different plant structures (traits)?

    Can plants acquire new traits? Can plants learn behaviors?


    Inside, remind students how they know something is living or not – use the anacronym E.A.G.E.R to help with this and keep it up on an anchor chart for reference. All living things need Energy (food/water) they require Air, they Grows and changes from birth to death, they build their homes in a special Environment or ecosystem and Reproduce to keep their species going.

    Once outside, have students do a quick write: How do you know plants are living things?

    If plants make their home here, they must get what they need to grow. (Things like energy from food, water, a place to grow and reproduce)


    Have the students create a chart to find plants in the outdoor classroom and record and describe a noticeable trait they have that might help them survive.

    • Name/Sketch

    • Inherited Trait (structure)

    • Functions to meet need by


    Have students return to the gathering space.

    Have students share what they discovered.

    Cold call students to share out some traits that might function to meet the need for food (climbing vines, shape of leaves) the need for water (long roots, waxy leaves) for reproduction (bright blooms, fragrant flowers, seed coat)

    Guide students to the understanding that a TRAIT is how an organism looks. Different organisms look like their parents and have specific traits that allow them to live in a specific environment. The traits passed from parent to offspring are INHERITED ("in" them when they are born)


    Some organisms ACQUIRE traits, these are not passed down.

    Have students turn and talk about some ways they (or their parents) have changed their physical appearance. (pierced ears, burns, tattoos, dyed hair etc.)

    Using cameras, task students to go out into the learning garden and find traits a plant has acquired from its environment.

    Once back in the classroom, download into a slideshow and have students debate whether or not the picture is of an acquired trait.


    After studying trees in the park, students recorded their observations. Some leaves they found had different shapes, some leaves had been eaten by insects, some trees they observed had rough bark and some smooth bark. They also noticed the beautiful flowers on a crape myrtle tree that was covered with bees and a fig tree that was starting to grow fruit. Some fruit had wholes in the middle, obviously they had been attacked by birds?

    Which observations are of inherited traits? Where any traits acquired – explain.

    Extension and Connections

    After study of instinct and learned behaviors, have students research whether or not a plant can learn a behavior. See resources for more ideas

    Career Connections

    The IF/THEN collection is the world’s largest free digital library of authentic and relatable images and videos of women STEM innovators.  


    Dr.Magan Lewis is an Agricultural Global Innovation Lead whose STEM journey began with nightly family trips after dinner. 


    Have your students watch this video for inspiration about pursuing STEM careers, and read this profile to learn more about Dr. Lewis' story.


    Thank you for creating a culture shift in how the world perceives women in STEM.