Lesson:
3/3
Standards Aligned:
Yes
CHNOPS
Place of Learning: 
Garden Classroom
Duration: 
90 Minutes
Grade Level: 
Grade 8
Contributor

ESY Berkeley Teaching Staff
Edible Schoolyard Project
Berkeley, CA

Tags: 
Decomposition
Summary: 
In this eighth-grade science lesson, students review the six essential elements of life and discuss how they function in the garden.
Student Learning Goals & Objectives: 

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Name the six essential elements of life.
  • Describe the role of bacteria in converting non-usable forms of the six essential elements into usable forms.
  • Give examples of how the six essential elements are obtained by plants in the garden.
Assessments: 

During this lesson, students will:

  • List carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur as the six elements of life.
  • Discuss the role of bacteria in converting non-usable forms of the six essential elements into usable forms.
  • Connect the essential elements to processes in the garden while playing a game called The Wind Blows.   
Materials & Prep: 
Materials
  • Compost Cake Visual Aid with Velcro-backed ingredient cards, elements, and file folder
  • Nitrogen Cycle Visual Aid
  • Example cover crop plant (legume) with nitrogen nodes on roots
  • The Wind Blows game cards
  • Fungus, bacteria, invertebrates (FBI) images
before you begin
  • Create the Compost Cake Visual Aid.
  • Create the Nitrogen Cycle Visual Aid.
  • Pull out an example of a cover crop with nitrogen nodes on roots.
  • Create The Wind Blows game cards.
  • Create The Wind Blows element and bacteria signs.
Procedure Steps: 
FULL GROUP, 7-12 MINUTES
1
AT THE OPENING CIRCLE

Welcome students and explain that we will be talking about CHNOPS in Opening Circle before working in the garden today.

  1. Introduce the six essential elements of life and the acronym CHNOPS.
  2. Explain that all living organisms need the essential elements of life to live.
  3. Prompt students to think about how, as humans, we get the six essential elements of life.
    • Begin with oxygen and hydrogen and explain that we rely on bacteria to convert the remaining four into usable forms.
  4. Show students the compost cake, highlighting the six essential elements in each layer of the compost pile.
  5. Explain that among the fungus, bacteria, and invertebrates, the bacteria are primarily responsible for breaking down and converting the elements into a usable form that plants can uptake through their roots. 
  6. Show the cover crop and explain that it is an example of bacteria “fixing” nitrogen.
    • Refer to the nitrogen cycle poster and further clarify the process. 
  7. Explain that when plants are able to uptake the essential elements of life, we are then able to intake those elements when we eat plants.
  8. Repeat the CHNOPS acronym, and call for choral responses after saying each letter.
  9. Tell students that in Closing Circle they will play The Wind Blows game, identifying the six essential elements of life and the role of bacteria.
  10. Divide the class into four groups for garden jobs.
  11. Encourage students to observe examples of the six essential elements during their time in the garden.
SMALL GROUPS, 40-60 MINUTES
2
IN THE FIELD

Garden Work Rotation

  1.     Students think about and look for examples of the six essential elements while they work in the garden.
FULL GROUP, 15-20 MINUTES
3
AT THE CLOSING CIRCLE

Play The Wind Blows, a game similar to musical chairs. 

  1. To start the game a teacher reads a statement 
  2. All students for whom the statement is true then stand up and change seats.
  3. The last student standing without a seat reads a follow-up to the statement and then reads the next statement. In this particular instance of the game, the statements are about the six essential elements of life.
Vocabulary: 
  • Carbon
  • Hydrogen
  • Nitrogen
  • Oxygen
  • Potassium
  • Sulfur
  • Bacterium
  • Cover crop
  • Nitrogen fixation

Academic Standards

Next Generation Science Standards

Performance Expectations

MS-LS1-7

Develop a model to describe how food is rearranged through chemical reactions forming new molecules that support growth and/or release energy as this matter moves through an organism.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS1.C

Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms: Within individual organisms, food moves through a series of chemical reactions in which it is broken down and rearranged to form new molecules, to support growth, or to release energy.

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts and Literacy, Grade 8

SL.8.1

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher- led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

 

SL.8.4

Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

Edible Schoolyard Standards

In the Garden Classroom, Grade 8

Tools

1.2

Select, use, and care for scientific measuring tools in the garden, measure precisely and understand what results mean.

The Edible Schoolyard Program

Program

1.0

Students work with each other and teachers to develop community and personal stewardship, along with skills that will help them navigate different situations throughout their lives.

Contributors: 

All lessons at the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley are developed in collaboration with the teachers and staff of the Edible Schoolyard and Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School.