Why are the bones of birds hollow?
Why do fish have gills?
What is the purpose of a plant’s chlorophyll?
How do our brains process everything we experience through our senses?
These are only a few of the questions your 4th-grade students will need to be able to answer. To help, we’ve taken the time to gather some great ideas for teaching the NGSS standards for From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes. Understanding the internal and external structures and functions of plants and animals can be daunting for many students, but it can be exciting, too.
This post is chock full of ideas to help teach your students all about how the structures and functions of plants and animals support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction. Keep scrolling, you’ll be glad you did.
In this post we:
As always, we design our Science Stations and the information in our teaching ideas blog posts to follow the Next Generation Science Standards.
NGSS 4th GRADE ENERGY SCIENCE STANDARDS
If teaching with the NGSS is new for you, we have a couple of great blog posts that will help you get started. How to Read the Next Generation Science Standards outlines where to start reading, interpreting, and teaching the NGSS. For 4th Grade Science, things can get a little more complicated, so we wrote Unpacking the 4th Grade Next Generation Science Standards. Give them both a look if you need help.
The ideas in this blog post align with the Next Generation Science Standards for Fourth Grade 4-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes. This blog post covers 4-LS1-1 (Structure and Function), and 4-LS1-2 (Information Processing).
Below is a description of how each individual Performance Expectation (PE) and Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) align and relate to each other.
4-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
4-LS1-1 Structure and Function: Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction
Aligns with the first DCI:
- LS1.A:Structure and Function
- Plants and animals have both internal and external structures that serve various functions in growth, survival, behavior, and reproduction.
4-LS1-2 Information Processing: Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.
Aligns with the second DCI:
- LS1D: Information Processing
- Different sense receptors are specialized for particular kinds of information, which may be then processed by the animal’s brain. Animals are able to use their perceptions and memories to guide their actions.
Now that you understand the standards and the basis for these teaching ideas, let’s move on to the fun stuff!
SCIENCE STATIONS ABOUT STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES FOR 4TH GRADE
For Structures and Processes, we have two bundles that cover all of the related standards. Each bundle contains eight science stations with hands-on activities designed to engage students on a deeper level in understanding plant and animal structures and processes. Each bundle also includes vocabulary cards to help students with core concepts.
The Structure and Function Bundle includes the following stations:
- Watch one of two videos
- Play a game
- Investigate bird structures for flight
- Diagram the human heart
- Read about tree structures and functions
- Model the structures and functions of arctic animals
- Explore photosynthesis
- Sort organisms into their kingdoms
The Information Processing Bundle includes the following stations:
- Watch one of two videos
- Play a game
- Investigate the sense of hearing
- Diagram the human eye
- Read about extraordinary animal senses
- Model echolocation in dolphins
- Explore the sense of taste
- Sort objects according to the sense of touch
This is an example of the Investigate Bird Structures for Flight Science Station. In this INVESTIGATE science station, students read about structures that suit them for flight. They examine a bird femur, sternum, and feather as part of the investigation. Students then answer questions about the investigation in their science journals or on the included worksheets.
Read more about our Structure and Function Science Stations in this blog post.
ADDITIONAL LESSON IDEAS FOR TEACHING ABOUT STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES
While we have written resources for teaching about Structures and Processes, there are many more ideas that you can use in your classroom without purchasing our units and science stations. Below are ideas for demonstrations and experiments, books, and videos to enhance your science lessons.
DEMONSTRATIONS AND EXPERIMENTS FOR LEARNING ABOUT STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION FOR FOURTH GRADE STUDENTS
This is a simple and fun experiment for any age. This website focuses on colors for the lesson, but you can easily use this experiment to explore the functions of capillaries in plants and animals.
This experiment is great for a lot of different scientific exploration, including how our brains process information. The website may seem like it’s geared for younger students, but the experiment is engaging enough for all ages.
CREATE AN ANIMAL OR CREATE A PLANT
Engage your students’ creative side while simultaneously teaching them to think critically about the biology behind their new plant or animal. While the page mentions downloading the templates for this activity, it’s not needed. The examples on the page are enough to get you and your students started. We’d love to hear about some of the new creations your students come up with!
EXPLORE BLOOD COMPONENTS
This is a perfect experiment for your students to learn about the different structures and functions of organisms. With this modeling experiment, students can see the different structures of blood and have a sweet treat at the same time!
Have your students conduct a research project on an insect of their choice, like a honey bee or grasshopper. Instruct them to define the special body parts of the insect, how these specialized body parts function, and how those functions support the insect’s ability to survive, grow, and reproduce.
We have a few Animal Articles about insects, including this set of Life Cycle Animal Articles.
DISSECT A FLOWER
Guide students in a dissection project of flowers. Have them name the different parts of the flower, such as daffodils or lilies, and describe how each part functions to support survival, growth, and reproduction.
We have a Third Grade Science Station for Plant and Animal Life Cycles all about Flower Dissection. This science station walks students through how to look at the parts of a flower.
ANIMAL AND PLANT CELL MODELS
Students can research plant and animal cells and recreate what they learn in a variety of ways. This website gives you ten different fun, creative ways to build cell models. This is a great way to engage your students in learning about the basic structures of cells and the functions of each structure.
This experiment will give students a real hands-on experience! Students build a hand model to represent the function of the muscles in the human hand. You can find step-by-step instructions here.
BUILD A PUMPING HEART MODEL
This is a fascinating experiment where students can get to the heart of learning. Help your students build a pumping heart model by following the instructions here.
BUILD MODEL LUNGS
This experiment is a breath of fresh air! It’s simple to put together, and it provides a terrific visual of how the lungs function. Click here to find instructions on making model lungs with your students.
SIMULATE THE STOMACH
Here are a few activities your students can try that will simulate how food is broken down/dissolved in your stomach. The first part offers an experiment on stomach acid. The second part explores the functions of the stomach itself (the actions of the muscles, etc.). There is a third part, but we’ll leave that up to you as the teacher to decide if you want to include it or not.
FLOWERS SEEKING POLLINATORS
The California Academy of Sciences offers this in-depth lesson plan with a three-part activity that teaches students how flowers and different pollinators (bees, birds, etc.) depend on each other for survival and reproduction.
BOOKS TO TEACH ABOUT STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES
Books make learning science more fun and engaging. They add visuals and details to hard concepts. Here are a few books that align with the structures and functions topic for fourth grade.
My First Human Body Book
My First Human Body Book is an interactive exploration into the different systems of our bodies. It engages children from 1st to 5th grade with detailed pictures they can color, while teaching them all about the human body’s structures and functions.
The Fantastic Body
A full-color exploration of the ins-and-outs of the human body’s systems. It’s full of diagrams, interesting facts, and gross stories (perfect for your 4th Grade students). It also includes projects your students can do on their own to investigate the functions of the body on their own.
How to Survive as a Firefly
This fun little story will have your students laughing as they learn all about the life-cycle of fireflies. There are a lot of facts included about the firefly’s structures and functions that support their survival, growth, and reproduction. It is a wonderful addition to your classroom reading list.
How to Survive as a Shark
Part of the How to Survive series of books, this will make a great addition to your classroom book list. How to Survive as a Shark is a fun romp through the ocean depths that will teach students about the lives of sharks, including the functions that help them survive and thrive.
While Redwoods is written for students up to 3rd grade, it is a must have for students of any age group learning about Structures and Functions. It is filled with vibrant drawings and a story that combines fantasy and nonfiction to give students the feeling that they are walking among the ancient redwoods while learning all about them.
Beauty and the Beak
Invite your students to follow the incredible true story of a bald eagle named Beauty. Her inspiring story details how important an eagle’s beak is to their survival.
Perfectly Peculiar Plants
Perfectly Peculiar Plants is a vibrant exploration of the world’s plants. Students will discover plants that give us food, plants that are poisonous, and plants that are simply strange. What does it take for these plants to survive their environments? What do they need to grow and reproduce? Answers to those questions, and more, can be found within these pages.
It’s Alive: From Neurons and Narwhals to the Fungus Among Us
This humorous book is packed with fun facts and colorful illustrations that take a look at life on earth. Students can discover the answers to questions about everything, such as jellyfish, trees, bacteria, and even our own brain’s processing of information and stimuli.
Bat Loves the Night
Bat Loves the Night follows the daily (or is it nightly?) life of a bat as she hunts for her next meal and returns to feed her baby. It includes descriptions on the structures of a bat’s body and the functions it needs to survive.
VIDEOS ABOUT STRUCTURES AND FUNCTIONS
We have included videos and activities for Structures and Functions in our Science Stations. Those activities include differentiated questions and ways for students to respond to the videos.
Here are links to other great videos that your students will enjoy as they learn more about structures and functions.
PBS/The Wild Kratts: Structures, Functions, and Information Processing
When it comes to teaching students all about animal structures and functions, the Kratt brothers are the experts! Their TV show is full of entertaining and educational adventures that highlight different “creature powers” in each episode. This link to the PBS webpage hones in on the specific NGSS standards for Structures, Functions, and Information Processing. It offers different Wild Kratts video clips and extra resources to learn more.
PBS: Plant Structures
Your students will enjoy this wonderful video that explores plant structures.
Smithsonian Science Education Center: How Animals Use Their Senses
The Smithsonian Education Center is offering brand-new lesson plans that include downloadable videos and PDFs geared toward classroom, and home, curriculum. They are created with 4th Grade NGSS standards in mind. Click here to be taken to their webpage geared toward answering the question: How Can Animals Use Their Senses to Communicate?
GenerationGenius: Our Brains and Nervous Systems
GenerationGenius offers engaging videos and full lesson plans that explore how our senses work with our brains and nervous systems. Add it to your classroom learning, or have students explore it on their own.
Scishow Kids!: Life During Spring
Scishow Kids have a lot of great videos on structures and functions, including this one that explores the life that students can discover during spring – from new plant life to interesting new bugs!
Other Videos about Structure and Function
There is no shortage when it comes to engaging, educational videos on the subject of Structures, Functions, and Information Processing. Here are a couple of videos worth checking out:
We hope the information presented here is helpful to you and that you feel both empowered and inspired to bring the world of structures and functions to life for your 4th-graders. Below are two of our science stations that focus on these Next Generation Science Standards.