Life Science & Everyday Thinking

Life Science and Everyday Thinking is a one-semester curriculum designed in part for prospective or practicing elementary teachers. The course uses a student-oriented pedagogy with a life-science content focus as well as a unique Learning about Learning component.

Life Science and Everyday Thinking is adaptable
Life Science and Everyday Thinking (LSET) is a lab-based introductory biology course designed to be taught in one 15-week semester, with 6 lab hours of instruction per week. There are options for excluding certain chapters to fit a 10-week quarter with either an ecosystem focus or with a more cellular focus.

Physical Science and Everyday Thinking is inquiry based.
The central principle of LSET is that students construct a meaningful understanding of central ideas in biology through inquiry-based experiences and social interaction. Every chapter opens with a formative assessment designed to elicit students’ prior knowledge. The activities, which follow, allow students to construct the targeted scientific concepts themselves using evidence from their own observations, experiments, and investigations.

Life Science and Everyday Thinking includes a unique Learning about Learning component
In this section, students directly engage in metacognitive activities that allow them to explore how they as students learn science.


Chapter 1: How Do We Study the Connections Between Living and Nonliving Things?

In this introductory chapter, through investigations and discussions, students develop a list of characteristics of living organisms. They begin to consider the interactions between the living and the nonliving components of an ecosystem during a walk in a nearby ecosystem. Students also begin to understand the practices of science by conducting simple experiments investigating the effects of nonliving things on plants.

Chapter 2: What Are the Functions of Food for Animals?

Students develop an understanding how animals benefit from food they eat (energy and atomic building materials). In the first part of the chapter, they explore the concept that food is incorporated into cells for storage and growth. In the second part of the chapter, students investigate how the energy stored in food molecules can be transformed into energy for cellular work.

Chapter 3: What is Food for Plants?

Students explore what substances prove building materials and energy for plants, that is, what substances serve as food for plants. In the process, they discover that plants use the same building-block molecules as animals do and that plants can actually make sugars through the process of photosynthesis. Finally, students discover that during the process of photosynthesis light energy is converted into the chemical energy that is harnessed by plants to do cell work by the same mechanism used by animals.

Chapter 4: How Do Matter and Energy Cycle in Living Systems?

Students explore how energy and matter move through ecosystems by investigating decomposition and following energy and matter through trophic levels. They discover that living organisms are responsible for decomposition. Students then go on to explore the connections among organisms in a food web as well as the connections between the living components and nonliving components in an ecosystem. Students develop an understanding that energy flows through an ecosystem while matter (for example, carbon) is cycled within an ecosystem.

Chapter 5: How Do Living Things Grow?

Students are introduced to the basic structure of cells. They observe and identify cell structures through compound light microscopes. With an introduction to organelles, students come to understand the cell membrane in greater depth and use this organelle to explore structure-function relationships. Finally, students consider how cells grow and divide through the viewing of online time-lapse microscopy videos.

Chapter 6: Why Are Offspring Similar but Not Exactly the Same as Their Parents?

Students begin with an exploration of the genetic and environmental causes of variations within a species. Students then extract DNA and consider how the structure of DNA allows information to be transmitted from parent to offspring. These discoveries allow students to make sense of ongoing experiments with Planaria and spider plants. Finally, students consider how new genes are formed by mutation.

Chapter 7: What Is Evolution?

Students are introduced to natural selection and evolution. Through simulations, readings, videos, and discussions, students are introduced to scientific ideas and consider misconceptions surrounding these topics. The chapter is structured to build from micro- to macroevolution by first considering changes on shorter time scales, then longer time spans, and finally spans of up to several million years.


Deborah Donovan

John Rousseau

Irene Salter

Leslie Atkins

Alejandro Acevedo-Gutierrez

Rene Kratz

Carolyn Landel

Val Mullen

Pamela Pape-Lindstrom