Why Study Living Things in the Classroom?

Children are naturally curious about the world around them. This characteristic makes learning activities in science enjoyable and rewarding for both students and teachers. Whether they live in large cities, small towns, or rural areas, children everywhere display an interest in living things. A field trip around the school grounds or through a park or vacant lot, will provide them with many opportunities to acquire firsthand knowledge of plants and animals.

Constructing and maintaining aquaria and terraria with specimens brought back from such field trips is an exciting way to illustrate the interrelationships between living things and their environment. Furthermore, a variety of well-planned investigations using easily obtainable animals and plants gives children opportunities to apply and understand the processes of the scientific method. Many of the world’s problems, which children read and hear about daily in school and on television, are the result of technology and its effect on the environment. Often, the result of this constant barrage of negativism is that students are left with a feeling of hopelessness. The study of living things both in the classroom and outdoors can develop a sensitivity, respect, and working knowledge of the requirements for all life. It can also help inculcate the attitude that humans can manipulate technology for the enhancement of their environment and the environment of other living organisms as well. The use of living materials, rather than preserved specimens, enables children to explore and devise experiments to explain the life around them. The solutions to our current problems and those in the future depend on how well teachers and schools develop a scientific literacy and ethic in today’s children.

The study of living plants and animals contributes to educational objectives. Instructional activities dealing with living organisms can be integrated with many subjects and skill areas in science, mathematics, social studies, language arts, and art. The study of live specimens contributes to the goals of education in other significant ways: It:

  1. nurtures and satisfies children’s natural curiosity;
  2. develops a sensitivity and respect for all forms of life;
  3. encourages and promotes a permanent interest in the life sciences, either as a career or leisure time activity; and
  4. lays the foundation for an ecological view of life, which is basic to the solution of many environmental problems.

When living organisms are maintained in the classroom, children become aware of the conditions under which animals and plants thrive as well as those under which they will perish. Understanding these relationships should have a positive carry-over effect in their personal lives. As children develop a sense of responsibility and commitment toward other living creatures,
they will apply these attitudes to the human condition.