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Going on a Living and Nonliving Hunt


By exploring various objects and organisms, students will begin to distinguish between things that are living, things that were once-living, and things that are nonliving.


  • One paper bag per group

Additional Resources


  • Living and Nonliving, by Angela Royston; ISBN 1403408548
  • What Is A Living Thing?, by Bobbie Kalman; ISBN 0613123352
  • Living Things, by Adrienne Mason; ISBN 0613260422
  • It's Alive!: All About the Living World, by Sunnie Kim; ISBN 1891418203

Background for Teachers

Your students may have trouble distinguishing between living, nonliving, and once-living things. Children may consider everything that moves to be alive, including cars and clouds. Often children pretend that objects are alive so that they can talk to them. Children also have difficulty comparing once-living objects with objects that have never lived. Living and nonliving are scientific terms. Children are accustomed to hearing living or dead. By exploring various objects and organisms, your students can begin to distinguish between things that are living, things that were once-living, and things that are nonliving.

Characteristics of living things are: able to grow, reproduce (make more organisms like itself), eat and drink, move, and are made of cells. To be alive, an object must do all five.

Intended Learning Outcomes

1. Use Science Process and Thinking Skills
2. Manifest Scientific Attitudes and Interests
3. Understand Science Concepts and Principles
4. Communicate Effectively Using Science Language and Reasoning

Instructional Procedures

  1. Give each group a bag and have them go outside and collect ten items.
  2. Have each group dump their bag on their desks and sort their items.
  3. Discuss how each group has sorted their items.
  4. Are there any other ways to sort them?
  5. Read Living and Nonliving by Angela Royston.
  6. Have groups sort their items again.
  7. Discuss characteristics of living and nonliving things.
  8. Graph results.
  9. Create a compare and contrast Venn Diagram.


  • Clean desks. Sort items into living, nonliving, and once-living. Put a small living animal (cricket, ant, beetle, ladybug, etc.) that is in a small clear box in a few desks.
  • Living and Nonliving boxes.
  • Provide magazines and have students cut out pictures of living, nonliving, and once-living things. Glue on a large piece of paper to make a collage.
  • Sort Picture Cards into living, nonliving, and once-living groups.

Family Connections

  • Students share their collage pictures with their families.
  • Students look for living, nonliving, and once-living things in their homes.

Assessment Plan

  • Make observations as students are working in their groups.
  • Check collages for accuracy.

Created: 09/30/2004
Updated: 05/13/2022