Alaska Sea Grant
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Take A Closer Look!
Students gear up for the field trip focused on comparison of the traits of seaweeds, plants and animals in terms of how they are the same or different in young and adults by making observations in the classroom of the young and adult forms of people and local seaweeds, plants and animals. At the beach, they explore and make observations of plants and animals in a variety of beach habitats, then engage in guided discovery to compare similarities and differences between immature and adults (mature) forms of specific organisms. They take pictures to bring back to the classroom to continue their observations and comparisons of the traits of young and adult organisms.
Essential Question(s)
How are young organisms similar or different from their parents? How do organisms of the same species vary?
How are young and adult beach plants and animals similar or different? (Examples: eel grass, sea weeds, marine invertebrates, intertidal fish) What types of traits do beach plants and animals have which can be observed to vary in individuals? (Examples:
PDF Investigation
Time Required
1 - 2 hour field session at the beach
Life Sciences
Investigation Type
Field Trip, Classroom
Grade Level
NGSS Performance Expectations
Materials Needed
  • Photographs or line drawings of young and adult (mature) stages of local beach plants and animals
  • Magnifiers/hand lenses
  • Clear or light colored trays with handles
  • Digital cameras or smart phones for photos

NGSS Performance Expectation

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents. (1-LS3-1)

Building towards: Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death. (3-LS1-1)


Knowledge - Students will know that:
  • Seaweeds have the same needs as plants.
  • Young seaweeds and plants may look similar to the adult (mature) ones but are not exactly like them.
  • The variability of seaweeds and plants in young and mature forms can include differences in size, color, shape and texture as well as where they are found.
  • All seaweeds, plants and animals of the same type share traits, but all individuals are not exactly alike.
Skills - Students will be able to:
  • Make first-hand observations to compare characteristics of young and adult (mature) plants and seaweeds on the beach and of individual seaweeds, plants and animals of the same type.
  • Use pictures to observe and compare characteristics of young and adult seaweeds, plants and animals.
  • Use information to construct evidence-based accounts of the differences and similarities of young and adult plants, seaweeds and animals and of individual that are the same type of organism.
Local and Cultural Connections
Make connections to seaweeds that children already eat – sushi, snacks, nori, etc. as well as intertidal animals they may eat such as clams, larger crabs, chitons, clams, and salmon. (They may observe young salmon in tide pools or close to the beach.)

Many Alaska school district bilingual programs have resources for teaching local plant and animal names in the local Alaska Native language (as appropriate for this age group) and describing their cultural importance. If possible and appropriate, include an Elder, other Alaska Native culture bearer, or other community member who harvests from the beach to talk about local use of edible beach and marine plants.
Teacher Preparation

Review the Teacher Background section below, including potential Prior Knowledge and potential Learner Misconceptions and ways to address them.

Print out the Stages of Rockweed Hand-out and the Salmon Life Stages Hand-out.
Collect or print out a variety of other seaweed, beach plant, and beach animal images. Possible sources:

If possible, take or obtain photos of people gathering local plants as food.

For more background on how to develop a science notebook, see Science Notebooks in Grades K-2.

Additional vocabulary: Common names of seaweeds (e.g, sea lettuce, rockweed, kelps)

Learning Experiences

ENGAGE: In the classroom

(15 mins.)

  1. Introduce the vocabulary word “traits” and then start with humans by focusing in on specific traits as the types of things all people share: How are all people alike no matter how old we are? (Examples: We all have two legs, two arms, a head on the top of our body, a nose in the middle of our face, etc.) How are we different? (taller/shorter, unique faces, hair color, etc.) Then discuss differences between human adults and children. (size, gray or white hair on some adults, wrinkles, etc.) To aid in discussion, you can also ask students to request pictures from their parents of themselves as a baby and of the parents as both an adult and as a baby.
  2. Using local flowering plants and animals as a focus (e.g., bears, bald eagles), provide students opportunities to make observations of young and adult (mature) plants and animals using storybooks and field guides or by viewing videos. Model how to record evidence about the pattern of resemblance and difference between parents and young by constructing a comparison/contrast chart on the board, emphasizing observations of similarities and differences in addition to size such as shape, color, shape, and type of place the plant lives (habitat). Pictures of eaglets, immature bald eagles, and adult bald eagles provide excellent opportunities to observe what stays the same (shape of the eagle body, wings, head, and feet) and what changes (the pattern of the colors of the feathers). The change in coloration and shape of a juvenile salmon compared to a spawning adult is also quite obvious.
  3. Give students other opportunities to observe patterns, using the rockweed and salmon hand-outs and other images of beach plants, seaweeds, and animals that children are likely to observe on their field trip. After you introduce them a variety of organisms, a matching game could be played independently to assess student skills with observation of patterns. The goal is to use the practices of observation to provide a basic understanding of similarities and differences in color, shape and texture (with also notes of camouflage) to distinguish different kinds of beach plants, seaweeds, and animals, and to distinguish young from adult (mature) forms.
  4. Introduce the focus question for when we go to the beach:
    How will we know what a young plant or animal looks like? What should we be looking for?
    Children could use paper/pencil or whiteboard/marker to make a quick sketch of what they expect to see (prediction).
  5. Practice with plastic or cloth pretend play plants in the classroom - using fingers or hands to gently touch but not gather or break off plants from a pretend tide pool.


To provide additional student practice with observation and description skills, the Alaska Seas and Watersheds Grade 1 investigation Shells: Take a Closer Look gives students the opportunity to touch and look at the large assortment of shells of the same species (butter clam and mussel shells work well), then choose one shell they would like to “take a closer look at.” They then draw their shell, noting unique characteristics and describing it. The teacher then reads the description to the class to see it other students can find that shell based on the description and students have the opportunity to try to improve their descriptions.

ENGAGE: At the beach

(15 mins.) Allow students to enjoy exploring the intertidal area. Help students focus in on a specific area by describing the boundaries and ask them to listen for a specific signal (whistle, bell, etc.) to gather for the scientific investigation - looking for young plants and animals! Allow children 15 minutes at the beach to explore and investigate beach areas and tide pools.


(30 mins.)

  1. After students come back together on the beach, have them stand toe to toe in a large circle to organize the activity. Model what it looks and sounds like to “investigate,” making sure everyone understands their role in the investigation. Explain that each student will be an investigative scientist looking for evidence of different kinds of young plants in the lowest tide zone.
  1. One adult can manage small groups of 4-6 students during this activity. The teacher or adult in each group will help students use the camera or smart-phone to take photos of each young plant they find and of the adult plant that matches it. Then they will help them take a closer look - taking time to find more of each plant and then looking for evidence of more young and adult plants. Ask: What do you notice? Where did you find it? What is the evidence of an adult? A young one? Are there different kinds of features? What are those features of the young plants that show evidence that they are the same or different from adults? [Possible focus species: rockweed (Fucus spp.), sea lettuce, kelps, dulse]

Review properties that can be noticed such as color, shape, size, type of place the plant lives (its habitat).

  1. Have the adults focus student attention on an area where there is a “patch” of numerous organisms of the same species (Focus species: seaweeds, mussels, barnacles). Ask: Are all of these plants (or animals) exactly the same? In addition to some being younger and smaller and some being older and larger, what other differences do you notice?

Take a picture of the patch that shows the individual variability.


(15 mins.)

If the weather and student attention for listening permits, gather students back together in the large group to share their evidence. Start with one type of plant. If possible, have samples of the different kinds of plants that have obvious differences between young and adults that are evident from looking.

First ask: What did you find? Guide discussion, emphasizing differences between the adult and young plants of each species, emphasizing color, size, shape, texture, and the type of place where each adult and young plant was found. Ask additional questions about making observations: How can we find more information by more observations? What do you wonder about this plant that you can’t find out just by looking at it? What other types of observations could you make?

Then ask: What types of traits did you observe in your patch of plants (or animals)? In what ways were all of the individuals in the patch the same? How were they different?

If the weather makes this discussion difficult, hold it back in the classroom instead. You can supplement the discussion in the classroom or review what was discussed at the end of the field trip by organizing the photos taken and providing more information in the form of line drawings, photos in books, and videos.

In their science notebooks, students can draw and/or add and label printed photos, noting similarities and differences of immature/young and adult plants. They can also draw and label the traits that were the same and different in the type of plant or animal they observed in the patch.


(15 mins.)
Formative Assessments: Compare and contrast discussions provide the opportunity for formative assessment of understanding.

Use follow up lessons, clipboard qualitative notes, a collection of photos/drawings with labels and/or video tape of a class discussion to evaluate student performance in using observations to make evidence-based accounts, using vocabulary words correctly and displaying a deeper understanding of the pattern of young and adult plants and animals.


(15 mins.)

Children use a T-chart (See example) to draw and label (using line drawings or their own drawings) one self-chosen plant from the beach trip (Possible focus species: rockweed, sea lettuce, dulse, kelp). The left side will have the immature/young plant and the right side will have the mature plant. The box at the bottom could include similarities of young with adults.

Formative assessment during the activity could include pre- and post- discussions with individual students or in small groups and the whole group. Sharing line drawings and identifying patterns across student work is valuable for building student experience and conceptual understanding.


Young children need multiple experiences across content to build conceptual understanding. Follow up with reading other books and incorporating other experiences that identify and highlight features of young and mature plants and animals in local environments and environments they may not have experienced like deserts, tropical forests, and arctic tundra.


Reading books and viewing videos about the behaviors of parent and young will address the NGSS Performance Expectation that students are able to determine patterns in behavior of parents and offspring that help offspring survive (1-LS1-2). Video resource: Amazing Moms (includes wolves and brown bears)

Resources for Planning and Teaching a Field Trip
Field Guide for Animals on Puget Sound Beaches

(possible model for student field guide)

Common Seashore Animals of Southeast Alaska

A field guide (images)

Between the Tides

By Mary Morris A Queen Charlotte Islands Reader, Pacific Educational Press, University of British Columbia, 1987, ISBN0-88865-044-2

Bilingual Resources
Chaa Salíi: Beach (Haida)Grade Level K-1. Sealaska Heritage Institute. Developed in Ketchikan and Hydaburg. Includes study prints and cut outs of common beach animals.  
Eék: Beach (Tlingit)Grade Level K-1. Sealaska Heritage Institute. Includes study prints and cut outs of common beach animals.  
Harvesting Seaweed in Alaska

Alaska Department of Fish and Game guide and regulations

Children’s Books
Everything Grows book

By Raffi (Also available as an album or MP3 download)

Alaska Ocean ABCs

By Conrad Field

Related Lessons
Chip off the Old Block

Students identify specific physical traits of adult plants and animals that are passed on to their offspring, examine images of young and mature plants and animals, and then match the adults to their offspring.

Stages of Rockweed Hand-out  
Teacher Background

For more background on the biology of marine invertebrates and a source for line drawings, see Marine Invertebrate Background Information.

Your spring beach field trip will provide opportunities for students to observe young seaweeds and other beach plants. (Seaweeds are technically not plants in the Plantae Kingdom; they are macro-algae which photosynthesize and fulfill the role of producer in coastal ecosystems.) Students may also have the opportunity to observe adult (mature) plants either on the way to the beach or what’s left of annual seaweeds from the previous year or longer-lived kelps that have washed up on the beach.

Students will also have opportunities to see young marine invertebrates (Examples: barnacles, mussels, crabs, that have settled on the beach after being a larva in the plankton.) The concept of metamorphosis from larva to adult is beyond the assessment boundary of the NGSS Performance Expectation but you can provide opportunities to compare and contrast larval and adult forms of some species they are likely to observe. Students can begin thinking about young marine invertebrates as immature animals growing into their adult (mature) form when they will be able to reproduce.

Previous Student Knowledge:
Students should know that all plants and animals grow over the course of their lifetime. They should also know that plants grow from seeds and young plants begin as shoots and then grow leaves. This learning will be extended to the understanding that plants also grow from other seed-like structures (spores in the case of seaweeds) and may grow leaf-like structures. If they have already completed a first grade science unit with a focus on external structures and functions of plant and animal parts (NGSS PE 1-LS1-1), their understanding can be reinforced by observations they make on the field trip and subsequent classroom discussion.

Student Knowledge and Skills, Pre-Field Trip: The classroom “gear up” activities in this lesson plan are designed to give students opportunities to observe a variety of young and adult plants and animals in books and pictures and discuss the concept of traits, individual variation in traits, and how young resemble, but are not always, exactly like their parents.

It will provide experiences for students to authentically use vocabulary they will need on the field session: adult, immature, size, holdfast, etc. and provide them with practice in gently touching, handling and observing sea weeds and animals on the beach, noting where they found what after study and observation.

Possible learner preconceptions, misconceptions and instructional clarifications:

Learner Preconception/misconception: Students need to build an understanding of biological concepts through direct experience with living things in local habitats. The idea that organisms depend on their environment is not well developed in young children nor is the idea that there are patterns in the ways organisms change over the course of their lifetime. Over the course of the K-2 grade band, students should have opportunities to investigate a variety of habitats and plants and animals at various life stages.

If students have not had the opportunity to observe a plant grow from seed into a plant, they may infer that a “small” plant or animal is a “baby” that only grows bigger rather than look at a variety of characteristics (e.g., shape, color, texture) that change as a plant or animal matures. If they have completed a unit observing a plant grow in soil, they may be confused about seaweeds being plants that can grow in places where there is none. They may think that holdfasts are the same as roots in term of function.

Instructional Clarification: The focus should be on establishing the nature of the association of organisms with their environments over time, followed by later experiences in upper elementary of dependence on various aspects of the environment, structures and behaviors plants and animals were born with that help them survive, and the process by which certain traits are inherited as a result of interactions with the environment. Giving children enough time to observe, wonder, ask questions and take another closer look will be important to developing the conceptual understanding targeted in this lesson plan.

If students are confused about plants needing soil to live, clarify that while it’s true that plants that live on land take in some substances in soil with their roots to make their own food, plants that live in the intertidal zone can obtain those same substances from the water that surrounds them when the tide is in. Since there is no soil, they have no use for roots. Consider introducing “minerals” or “materials” as a vocabulary word. When this topic is re-visited in Grade 5, the focus is on plants getting materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.

Components of Next Generation Science Standards Addressed

Science & Engineering Practices

Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Analyzing data in K–2 builds on prior experiences and progresses to collecting, recording, and sharing observations.

Use information from observations (firsthand and from media) to construct an evidence-based account for natural phenomena.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits

LS3.A: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

Young animals are very much, but not exactly like, their parents. Plants also are very much, but not exactly, like their parents.

Foundational for:
LS3.B: Variation of Traits

Individuals of the same kind of plant or animal are recognizable as similar but can also vary in many ways.

Cross-Cutting Concepts

Patterns: Observed patterns in nature guide organization and classification and prompt questions about relationships and causes underlying them.

Patterns in the natural and human designed world can be observed, used to describe phenomena, and used as evidence.

Common Core

W.1.8 - With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather infor-mation from provided sources to answer a question.
1.MD.A.1 – Order three objects by length; compare the lengths of two objects indirectly by using a third object.
Alaska Cultural Standards
Culturally-knowledgeable students demonstrate an awareness and appreciation of the relationships and processes of interaction of all elements in the world around them.
Developed for Juneau School District by Jennifer Thompson, Juneau School District teacher, and Hans Chester, Juneau Indian Studies instructor.
Last Updated on
Last Updated by
Marilyn Sigman
Alaska Sea Grant University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Department of Education and Early Development NOAA