Make Something Alive!

Lesson Overview: A crowd-pleaser for all the science and art fans, this lesson is sure to be a hit with your students who love animals, wireless technology, and making. Students will use biology concepts to tackle this project-based learning task.

Lesson Objectives: Students will learn the seven characteristics of life, will mind map their group ideas regarding living organism qualities, and will create a “living organism” using littleBits and craft materials that “reacts” to its environment in some way.

Assessment Strategies:

Formative: Student is engaged in activity, contributes during group brainstorm, demonstrates understanding while completing creative task.

Summative: student can list at least 3 qualities of living organisms, and creates a “living organism” that utilizes both input and output littleBits to simulate sensitivity and response to environmental change.


Duration: 60 minutes

Credits: The information I used regarding the characteristics of living things can be found on this website. Very concise table for understanding the concept. “Characteristics of Living Things.” Science Learning Hub RSS. Web. 22 Apr. 2015. . An excellent resource for creating real-time online mind maps. Ideal for the group discussion piece in the activity section. “Text 2 Mind Map – Simple Mind Mapping Online.” Text 2 Mind Map. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. .

Middle School (ages 11-13)
High School (ages 14-17)


Life Science
General Education

motion trigger (1)
buzzer (2)
long led (4)
light sensor (1)
button (2)
led (4)
power (4)
rgb led (1)
pressure sensor (4)
sound trigger (1)
light wire (1)
temperature sensor (1)

Computer 1
projector 1
screen/ display 1
HDMI to TV hookup (optional) 1
paper bags 0
Glue 1
Tape 1
Pipe cleaners 0
Feathers 0
Googly Eyes 0
Glitter 0
Pom poms 0
Construction paper 0
various craft items 1
styrofoam craft balls 0
paper for each student 1
pencil for each student 1



STEP 1 : Opening Question

Begin by posing this question, “What makes something alive?” Have students share their answers. Allow this time to be open sharing with no correction or instruction.

STEP 2 : Brainstorm Breakout Session

Explain that you are going to divide students into groups of two or three. Within their groups, have students brainstorm qualities that make any living organism alive. Encourage them to think of both large and microscopic animals and the qualities that all of them share. Students can list as many as they think of on paper or large sticky note. Give five to ten minutes of work time. 3. While students are brainstorming, create a mind map on your laptop, being sure not to display the map just yet to the group. The map should include the seven characteristics of living organisms. These are Excretion, Respiration, Movement, Growth, Reproduction, Nutrition, and Sensitivity. For the mind mapping portion of this lesson, use a simple text-to-mind-map site such as to create an easy mind map that you can edit in real time.

STEP 3 : MindMap

Make Something Alivel
Screen shot of example mind map before student input is added

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Example of mind map after student suggestions have been added

When the work time has ended, display the mind map. Explain that a mind map assists people in visualizing concepts and giving organization in an organic way. Explain that we will use a mind map to learn the characteristics of living organisms and sort the groups’ ideas into the visual map. Begin by reviewing the seven concepts and giving a brief description of each. You may wish to follow the explanations given below: • Excretion: All living organisms make waste. • Respiration: All living organisms produce energy (this occurs in various ways. Humans take in oxygen for energy and exhale carbon dioxide) • Nutrition: All living organisms intake and use nutrients • Reproduction: All living organisms pass their genetic material on to offspring • Movement: All living organisms move to some degree • Growth: All living organisms grow • Sensitivity: All living organisms detect or react to changes in their environment When you have given these descriptions, go to each group and have them read aloud their ideas for qualities of living organisms. Most likely, these responses will be rather specific and many will align with or nest under the broad characteristics you have described. Allow other groups to share examples or additions to make to the graph. As you go along, input unique answers into the mind map or compliment students’ alignment with characteristics already listed.

STEP 4 : The Challenge!

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Example of a littleBits circuit for producing a creature who makes noise when touched!

Now that students have background knowledge on the subject at hand, you may pose the challenge. Explain that students will creating their own “living organism” today using the littleBits. Their organism must exhibit the “sensitivity” characteristic where it responds or react to its environment. Other characteristics are not necessary for this project. Go on to say that students must be creative and are allowed to use various art materials to create their organism. The littleBits must be used in some capacity to create the environmental reaction/ sensitivity quality. Allow students 30-45 minutes to create their organism. As a bonus, students must name their creature, describe its environment, and be prepared to present and demonstrate their organism’s reaction to an environmental change. Examples of “sensitive” animals students might create include crafting a paper-bag animal that makes noise when touched using the power of littleBits! An example of the bits used to generate this reaction to environmental change would be: power bit connected to pressure sensor, connected to wire bit, which is connected to the buzzer bit. Once a student attaches the bit sequence to the crafted animal, a light touch on the pressure sensor will result in a noisy animal!

STEP 5 : Presentation and Demonstration

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Finished Product!

After the allotted time has passed, have each student present their organism and demonstrate its sensitivity to the environment. Students can demonstrate this in a number of ways: by having touch sensors create noise effects, bend sensors create vibration, and other unique utilizations of the littleBits.