Get to Know the Great Outdoors

The environment is everything that surrounds us. An environment can, and often does, contain natural and human-made things, and living and non-living things. In this unit, students will learn to identify the differences between living and non-living things and how the specific quality and quantity of these things customize habitats for plants and animals.

TOPIC 1A : The World Around You

Nature is made of both living and non-living things. Living things are organisms that grow and change, need nutrients and air, and reproduce. The living things in our environment are plants and trees, animals, and fungus. Non-living things are parts of the environment that have never been alive. The non-living things are air, soil, water, and sunlight. These things could also include natural items that came from animals but were never alive like spider webs, excrement, feathers, and fur. Non-living things can also be part of the built environment such as buildings, sidewalks, cars, tables, books, and backpacks. Nature also has things that are dead or were once living. These can be logs on the ground, piles of leaves and sticks, or an animal carcass. Things that are dead still play a large role in how the environment works.

TOPIC 1B: A Home for a Habitat

All living things have basic needs that must be met in order for them to stay alive. They need air, water, light (plants only), space, food, and shelter. Plants and animals can get these things from their environment, but they must be of the proper quality and quantity required. An environment becomes a habitat for a plant or animal when the arrangement of air, water, light (for plants), space, food, and shelter are suitable for its needs.

People may consider a house as their shelter, and they have many different kinds of housing options that suit their needs (traditional houses, apartments, trailers, condos). In a human’s home they have access to water, food, and a place to sleep. An animal may find shelter underground, in a bush, under the bark of a tree, or in a pile of rocks, but they likely do not have food and water in that location. Animals need space to live in and it needs to be the right size for them to find the things they need (food, water, shelter).

An animal’s home is more like a neighborhood. Plants do not need to move around, but they still need enough space to spread their roots to find water, and for their branches to grow to reach the sunlight for photosynthesis.

Plants and animals will be affected if any of these components are missing or are changed so much that the arrangement is no longer suitable. The impact may not be catastrophic, but it certainly could be. There are also other limiting factors such as disease, predation, pollution, and climatic conditions that can affect the survival of all living things.