All Subjects
      All Types



        K-5, 13+

        Permitted Use

        Part of WGBH
        724 Favorites

        The Needs of Living Things

        Students learn what animals and plants need to survive, how their habitats support these needs, and how organisms can change their environment.

        Lesson Summary


        In this lesson, students watch video clips of animals and plants in their natural environment, to gather evidence that all living things have basic needs that must be met in order to survive. Then, to illustrate their understanding of this concept, students draw pictures of real or imaginary pets eating, drinking, breathing, and taking shelter (from the elements or from other animals).


        • Understand that in order to survive, animals need air, water, food, and shelter, and plants need air, water, nutrients, and light
        • Identify the ways in which an organism's habitat supports its basic needs
        • Recognize that organisms cause changes to the environment in which they live

        Grade Level: K-2, 3-5

        This lesson is appropriate for students in all elementary grades. Activities, multimedia resources, and materials for students in grades 3-5 are specially designated.

        Suggested Time

        • Three 30- to 40-minute blocks

        Multimedia Resources

        For students in grades 3-5:

        Use these resources to create a simple assessment or video-based assignment with the Lesson Builder tool on PBS LearningMedia.


        • Plain white paper, Crayons or markers

        For students in grades 3-5:

        Before the Lesson

        For students in grades 3-5:

        • Make a copy of the handout for each student.

        Background Information

        In order to survive, animals need air, water, food, and shelter (protection from predators and the environment); plants need air, water, nutrients, and light. Every organism has its own way of making sure its basic needs are met. It is important that young children be given the opportunity to recognize these needs by observing and then describing the natural world.

        The Lesson

        Part I

        1. Have students brainstorm answers to the following questions:

        • What do living things need to stay alive?
        • What do you need? What do your pets need?
        • What do plants need?

        Record students' answers on easel paper or on the chalkboard.

        2. Show students the What Do Animals Eat? video. Ask:

        • Why do animals need to eat?
        • What kinds of things do they eat?
        • Do all living things eat?
        • Do plants eat?

        Explain that animals need to eat for energy; plants don't eat but they still need energy. Ask:

        • "Where do plants get energy?

        3. Have students watch the Beavers video. For students in grades K-2, alert them to look for things that beavers need to stay alive.

        For students in grades 3-5, distribute a copy of the handout. Have students record the needs of the beavers as they watch the clip.

        4. Discuss the following questions:

        • What do beavers need to stay alive?
        • Where do they get what they need?
        • What changes do beavers make to their environment?
        • How do the beaver's activities help other organisms living in the same environment?

        Part II

        5. Have students in grades K-2 watch the Biome in a Baggie video. Tell them to look for things that plants need to stay alive.

        Have students in grades 3-5 watch the Photosynthesis video. Then have them answer the two related questions on the handout. Encourage them to watch the video multiple times.

        6. Discuss the following questions:

        • What do plants need to stay alive?
        • Where does their food (energy source) come from?
        • How do plants absorb water?
        • What things do plants need that animals don't?
        • What things do animals need that plants don't?
        • How do you know plants are living things?

        7. End this part of the lesson by asking students whether they want to make any changes to the list of basic needs compiled at the start of the lesson (in Step 1).

        Optional Activity for Students in Grades 3-5

        8. Both plants and animals need air. To help students understand that plants need carbon dioxide (a gas that animals exhale) and that animals need oxygen (a gas that plants produce), have students explore "The Cycle" feature within the Illuminating Photosynthesis Web activity. Focus on the gases plants and animals need, not on understanding the process of photosynthesis.

        Have students explore the Web activity with a partner and work together to complete the handout.

        9. Distribute white paper and markers or crayons to students.

        10. Review the needs of living things.

        11. Have students draw a picture of a real or imaginary pet. Tell students to show their pet enjoying food, water, air, and shelter -- having all its needs met. Label the "needs" represented in the drawing.

        12. Optional:

        • Discuss how the needs of beavers might come into conflict with the needs of humans, using the following scenario: What would happen if beavers built a dam across [insert the name of a nearby river or stream]? How would it impact people in your town?
        • Have students make a Biome in a Baggie as described in the ZOOMSci video clip of the same name.
        • Have students plant some seeds and record the growth of the plants under different light conditions.


        You must be logged in to use this feature

        Need an account?
        Register Now