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Animals and Science in the Classroom

Gain tips on animal husbandry, animal related activities, games, events and careers!

Animals and the NGSS

With the expected adoption of the next generation science standards by Illinois, educators and parents alike are eagerly searching for opportunities to learn more about them. The standards are based on the National Research Council's 'Framework for K-12 Science Education' and one of the overarching goals of the framework is to "ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students' have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science..."(A Framework for K-12 Science Education: practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas – National Research Council of the National Academies) As a veterinarian, educator and animal lover, I am always searching for the opportunity to incorporate animals into my educational materials. Animals can serve as useful scientific teaching complements to lessons, if properly handled, cared for and integrated into the curriculum. So how do animals fit into the next generation science standards? Overall, the main animal associated focus points are interdependent relationships in ecosystems, inheritance and variations of traits and structure, function and information processing. Students are expected to be able to formulate answers to core questions and meet performance expectations based on grade level. Below is a chart exhibiting some of the core questions and concept knowledge expectations for kindergarten through fifth grade based on information from the next generation science standards website as relates to animals (

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Where do animals live and why do they live there?

Knowledge of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive and the relationship between their needs and where they live


What are some ways plants and animals meet their needs so that they can survive and grow?

Knowledge of how plants and animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow and meet their needs. How behaviors of parents and offspring help the offspring survive. The understanding is developed that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly the same as their parents


What do plants need to grow? How many types of living things live in a place?

What plants need to grow and how plants depend on animals for seed dispersal and pollination. Students should have experience with comparing the diversity of life in different habitats.


How do organisms vary in their traits? How are plants, animals, and environments of the past similar or different from current plants, animals and environments? What happens to organisms when their environment changes?

Knowledge of the similarities and differences of organism's life cycles. Knowledge that organisms have different inherited traits, and that the environment can also affect the traits that an organism develops. Information about the types of organisms that lived long ago and also about the nature of their environments.


How do internal and external structures support the survival, growth, behavior and reproduction of plants and animals?

Have a developed understanding of the fact that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior and reproduction.


How does matter cycle through ecosystems? Where does the energy in food come from and what is it used for?

Through the use of models, students should be able to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers and the environment and realized that the energy in animals' food was once energy from the sun.

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