In this lesson, students think about the human life cycle. How do humans begin? Were grown-ups ever babies? What do different stages of a human life cycle look like? Used to “tune in,” this lesson enables you to get a feel for how much the children know at the beginning of the unit. Through simple drawings, children will show their understanding of a human life cycle.
To understand that human beings have a life cycle and to identify basic stages of the human life cycle. (AASL 1.1.1, “Follow an inquiry-based process in seeking knowledge in curricular subjects, and make the real-world connection for using this process in own life.”)
Each child will complete a series of simple drawings to show his or her understanding of the human life cycle.
Explain that the class is starting a new unit of inquiry about life cycles. Ask if anyone knows what a life cycle is. How does a life cycle start? (Answer: With birth or a new life.) How does long does a life cycle last? (Answer: That depends on the kind of organism it is and what happens to it during its life.) What happens between the beginning of life and the end of life? (Answer: Living!!) Explain that all living things have a life cycle and that today we will try to find out what happens to people as they grow, develop, and change.
Teach Our Family, From Baby to Grandma by Monica Hughes. The book talks about families, not directly about life cycles. But, using this information and talking about the pictures, the children can put together a framework for how humans grow. There are other texts that do this more explicitly, but I like this text because there are very few words and the children must do their own thinking. This text also places different stages of human development within a family, which is, I think, most appropriate for young children.
Based on the reading and discussion, try to get the children to name:
- Infancy (Babies)
- Childhood (Children)
- Adulthood (Adults)
- Elder Years (Elderly People like Grandmas and Grandpas)
Extend the lesson by asking children to draw a simple picture of each stage of the human life cycle. They are usually able to do this in about 10 minutes. Pass out the student assignment sheet (attached), go over the instructions, and give the children time to complete the drawings.
To wrap up, ask the children where they are in their own life cycle. Ask them where their parents are and where their grandparents are. Ask whether anyone has a baby in the family and, if so, how the baby’s stage compares to their own life cycle stage. Explain that next week we’ll be looking more closely at the first stage of a human’s life cycle, infancy or babyhood.
- Our Families, From Baby to Grandma by Monica Hughes
- Copies of the student assignment (attached)
Be careful when using the words “dead” or “death.” Some children have never experienced the death of a loved one or pet. And, if they have, they may not understand it or be prepared to talk about it. Avoid using these words and focus exclusively on living and the human life cycle throughout the unit.
My experience in this unit is that the teachers focus on animal or plant lifecycles, but human life cycles are often not part of their content. If your teachers are not working with the human life cycle, there is a lot of literature to support this aspect of the Unit of Inquiry.
Recommended books for this lesson:
Our Families, From Baby to Grandma by Monica Hughes
Life Cycles, Babies, Infants, Physical Characteristics