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How Do Living and Nonliving Things Interact?

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Lesson Summary When to use this lesson Use this lesson when you teach students about the interaction of living and nonliving things. Objective Students understand that living things have an effect on nonliving things in the environment and that nonliving things in the environment affect living things. Materials:

  • Worksheet for each student
  • Pencil for each student
  • Signs of nonliving things

Estimated Duration  30 minutes

Life Science

Living things cause changes on Earth.

  • Living things function and interact with their physical environments. Living things cause changes in the environments where they live; the changes can be very noticeable or slightly noticeable, fast or slow.

Advance Set Up

  • Set up markers to help students locate nonliving things in the garden. Students will look for the markers to help them identify water, heat energy (temperature), sun (light), soil, compost, and air.


  • What kinds of plants and animals are in the garden? How do they interact with each other?
  • Plants and animals are living things. They are made of cells. They use energy. They grow. They have a way to reproduce to make more of them. They respond and adapt to conditions in the environment.
  • Living things change the environment on Earth. Plants grow and if not maintained in some way, can become crowded with some plants taking over. Trees grow and provide shade and shelter to living things. Plants attract animals that eat plants. Animals are food sources for other animals. Animals can cause damage in the environment when their numbers become great. Other animals help to create soil. Can students think of more examples?
  • Nonliving things also have an impact. The environment consists of nonliving things that can cause changes in living things.
  • Today we’ll look for living and nonliving things. Students start by drawing and labeling three living things in the garden.
  • Then, they’ll add nonliving things to their picture by looking for clues to help them identify what the nonliving things are. Students label the nonliving things.
  • Gather your students together to discuss how living and nonliving things interact. Focus on how the environment impact living things. How do the nonliving things affect the living things? What do plants and animals need from nonliving things?
  • Water is needed for plants and animals to live. Plant parts and animals store water in their parts, as we do. Water is used by plants to make food.
  • Heat energy (temperature) is needed for plants to grow and for our tiny garden animals to move.
  • The sun (light) is needed to provide warmth for plants and animals. Light from the sun is used by plants to make food.
  • Soil is made from broken down rocks and dead plants and animals. Soil has living things in it, but it is not living. Soil is needed to give nutrients and minerals to plants. Soil holds plants in place. Soil provides homes to many animals. Soil holds water for plants. Soil quality helps determine what plants will grow, and then what animals will live among the plants.
  • Air is needed by animals to breathe and by plants to work with water and sunlight to make food.
  • When one or more of these is missing or of poor quality, the growth and survival of living things are affected. What can affect the quality of nonliving water and air? What changes do we see in nonliving things as seasons change? How do these changes affect living things? Discuss how weather and seasons of our climate (the nonliving stuff) impact living things.
  • Wrap up by reinforcing that changes to the Earth happen from living and nonliving things. There is a constant interaction that sometimes we see and sometimes we don’t see.


  • Westbroek, Glen. Characteristics of Living Things. Utah State Office of Education, 15 Jun 2000. 15 Sep 2013 <>.
  • BSCS Science T.R.A.C.S.: Investigating ecosystems excerpt. BSCS, 1999. 15 Sep 2013

Granny’s Garden School

How Do Living and Nonliving Things Interact – Name: ________________________________________   Draw a picture of three living things in the garden and label them. Find clues of nonliving things and add them to your picture. Write the names of the nonliving things.