Organisms are everywhere. They can vary in size, cell number, structure, behavior, and physical characteristics. The basic functional unit of an organism is a cell. Organisms can either be unicellular, meaning the organism is composed of one cell, or they can be multicellular. Humans are an example of a multicellular organism. Developing an understanding of a cell's structure and functions is useful when characterizing and classifying organisms.
Students are first introduced to organisms in kindergarten, and continue to expand on the concept all throughout elementary school. This post provides resources concerning organisms that correlate to the Virginia Standards of Learning at the 5th grade level.
Cell Functions: Understanding How Cells Work. By Jennifer Viegas. 2004. 48p. Rosen Publishing Group, (9781404203204). Gr. 3-6.
This book, which includes full color illustrations, explores all of the major functions of a cell. This book help makes the difficult concept more clear for young readers with the identification of key vocabulary.
Christina Examines Plant Cells and Animal Cells. By Carol Marsh. 2008. 32p. Gallopade Intl., (9780635066619). Gr. 2-5.
Christina is a member of the Science Alliance. In this book, Christina looks at the history behind cells. She looks at unicellular organisms, and the difference between plant cells and animal cells. Included are various activities that students can complete to develop their understanding of the topic.
Enjoy Your Cells. By Frances R Balkwill & MIC Rolph. 2001. 32p. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, (9780879696122). Gr. 3-5.
"Beneath your skin there is is an amazing, living world of cells. Millions and millions of cells work together, to make everything that is you." This book talks about various living things, including humans, and how they are made up of cells.
Itsy Bitsy Tiny Cells Put Together Very Well. By Janine Wilson. 2005. 36p. AuthorHouse, (9781420859287). Gr. 1-5.
In this book, a kid sets out on a voyage to learn more about the animal cell. On his voyage he meets Mr. Mitty the mitochondria, Mrs. Nucleolus, Rocky Ribosome, and many more organelles that teach the kid about how itsy bitsy tiny cells are put together very well.
Looking Inside Cells: Life Science. By Kimberly Fekany Lee. 2008. 32p. Teacher Created Materials, (9780743905831). Gr. 4-7).
This book looks at some scientists who have been instrumental in developing the cell theory. The book also includes a lab to make your own light microscope.
The Basics of Cell Life with Max Axiom, Super Scientist. By Amber J. Keyser. Illus. by Cynthia Martin & Barbara Schulz. 2009. 32p. Graphic Library, (9781429639040). Gr. 3-6.
Max Axiom is a super-cool super-scientist. Using his powers that he required in a freak accident, Max demonstrates science in a new and fun way!
Web SitesCell Projects and Lessons
This web site has tons of resources for teachers. It includes a number of links to various projects teachers can use in the classroom to teach about cells and organisms. Lesson plan ideas are also available on this site.
This web site gives an illustration for both an animal cell and a plant cell. Each illustration includes labels of the various parts of the cell. These labels are hyperlinked, so when clicked on, a description of the identified part will appear.
This is an interactive PowerPoint that can be helpful for teachers as they prepare for their lesson.
School Science Clips
This game is called Variation. Various organisms will pass the screen on a conveyor belt, and players must choose which category the organism belongs to, whether it's a bird, insect, mammal, or plant.
This site allows learners to categorize different organisms based upon different characteristics.
Virginia Science Standards of Learning
5.5 The student will investigate and understand that organisms are made of one or more cells and have distinguishing characteristics that play a vital role in the organism's ability to survive and thrive in its environment. Key concepts include
a) basic cell structure and functions;
b) classification of organisms using physical characteristics, body structures, and behavior of the organism; and
c) traits of organisms that allow them to survive in their environment
Background Information from Curriculum Framework
- Living things are made of cells, which carry out all life processes. New cells come from existing cells. Since cells are too small to be seen with the eye alone, microscopes are used to see many parts of a cell.
- Though plant and animal cells are similar, they are also different in shape and in some of their parts. Plant cells tend to be rectangular, while animal cells tend to be spherical or at times irregular.
- Organisms that share similar characteristics can be organized into groups in order to help understand similarities and differences.
- Plants can be categorized as vascular (having special tissues to transport food and water--for example, trees and flowering plants) and nonvascular (not having tissues to transport food and water--for example, moss). Most plants are vascular.
- Animals can be categorized as vertebrates (having backbones) or invertebrates (not having backbones).