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Love Your Living Landscape

45 minutes
Primary subjects: 
Kindergarten, 1, 2
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Superheroes TurfMutt & the Outdoor Powers are on a mission to teach students and their teachers and families backyard science including how to take better care of the green spaces around them and the importance of living landscapes. With the activities in this new hands-on science program, you can help them save the planet one yard at a time.

This activity will have students thinking critically about living landscapes and their benefits to communities.

Key objectives for students
Identify how living landscapes benefit the environment
Describe what the living landscapes in your neighborhood look like
Identify the organisms that live in the living landscapes near you
Secondary subjects
Environmental Science
Materials needed
  • Student Worksheet A: “It’s Alive!”
  • plastic magnifying glasses
  • paper
  • pencils
  • crayons
Time Exercise Description
15 minutes Engage Your Neighborhood’s Landscape
15 minutes Explore A World Beneath Your Feet
15 minutes Explain Aiding the Environment

Engage: Your Neighborhood’s Landscape

  • Tell students to close their eyes and picture walking around their community. Narrate their journey by asking: Are there farms, fields, trees, homes, buildings, parks, shopping centers, streets, or parking lots? Discuss what students saw as a class.

  • Point out how some things students saw on their imaginary walk were alive, such as trees and lawns. They’re part of their neighborhood’s living landscape. Explain that students likely also saw paved roads and sidewalks, as well as areas covered with gravel, concrete, rocks, dirt, sand, or artificial plastic grass. These features make up their neighborhood’s nonliving landscape.

  • Discuss how some people think nonliving landscapes are good for the environment because they don’t need resources, such as water, to maintain them. Other people think living landscapes provide more benefits. That’s because plants help remove pollution from water and the air and keep areas cooler than bare soil or concrete does. Their roots also help prevent erosion by holding soil in place so it doesn’t wash away.

  • Hand out a copy of Student Worksheet A: “It’s Alive!” to each student. As a class, identify features of living and nonliving landscapes. Then have students use these elements to design their own living landscape on a separate sheet of paper.

Explore: A World Beneath Your Feet

  • Explain that another benefit of plant-filled green spaces is that they provide habitats, or natural homes, for many different creatures.

  • Take students outside to explore a real-life living landscape near your school and see what organisms live there. If possible, provide each student with a small magnifying glass to examine the landscape up close.

  • Have students draw the types of plants and animals they observe. Discuss the number and variety of plants and animals students discover.

Explain: Aiding the Environment

  • State that living landscapes play another valuable role in the community—they help protect against extreme weather, such as droughts (long periods with little rainfall) and intense storms. For example, plants can slow down and capture moving water after heavy rains to prevent flooding.

  • Encourage students to think critically about what they’ve learned about living landscapes by asking: How could living landscapes benefit your community?

Standards assessment

Next Generation Science Standards

  • ESS2.E: Biogeology – Plants and animals can change their environment.
  • ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems – Things that people do to live comfortably can affect the world around them. But they can make choices that reduce their impacts on the land, water, air, and other living things.
  • K-ESS3-3. Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment.
  • ESS3.A: Natural Resources - Living things need water, air, and resources from the land, and they live in places that have the things they need. Humans use natural resources for everything they do.
  • 1-LS3-1 Make observations (firsthand or from media) to construct an evidence-based account for natural phenomena
  • 2-LS4-1. Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.