Lesson Plans

Shape of Life Developed Lesson Plans

Now students can get the 'real scoop' on what it's like to be a scientist. Our new Science in Action Lesson Plan features NGSS aligned concepts in Three Dimensional Learning through Science and Engineering Practices (SEP's), Crosscutting Concepts (CC's) and Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI's).

There are several types of scientists represented in the Shape of Life scientist videos. This lesson will require students to do a report on distinct scientific fields using the videos, Internet resources and the handout about “Cool Science Careers”. Learning about the different science disciplines can help students see the connection between what they learn in the classroom and what goes on in the enterprise of science.

After watching the nine phyla videos, students make a case for the most awesome invertebrate by presenting a verbal argument and creating a flyer.  At the end of the lesson, students will be amazed by the diversity of invertebrates and their special adaptations.

Through teacher-led discussion, students try to define what makes an organism an animal. This discussion should lead students too think about what all animals have in common. After watching the video Sponges: Origins and filling out a worksheet (page 3-4), the class reconsiders the definition of an animal.

The teacher introduces the topic by asking the students what group of animals they think may have been the first. Through questioning, discussion, and observing two videos, students evaluate the evidence that supports which group was the first to appear on Earth.

The teacher leads the class in a discussion of what animal may have been the first to hunt.  In considering the types of evidence they might need, they have a discussion of fossilized tracks and traces. Students write their ideas in notebooks, watch two videos and fill out a worksheet.

In this lesson students will assess evolutionary links and evidence from comparative analysis of the fossil record and modern day organisms. Using the information about the Cambrian Explosion, they explore theories about how and why organisms diversified then hypothesize what evidence might be helpful to connect fossil organisms to modern organisms to show evolutionary connections. This lesson plan incorporates three videos from our website.

The lesson was created by Tucker Hirsch of THinc Green

In this lesson, the class will investigate how, through the process of evolution, animals have solved their engineering problems and how people have mimicked those natural solutions. The class as a whole discusses how specific animals have solved an engineering problem. Then, in groups, students consider how humans have solved similar problems and they record and draw their examples on a worksheet.

This collection consists of six lesson plans designed to help students construct an explanation of the geologic time scale based on personal connections (development of personal and schoolyard timelines and comparison to Earth’s timeline), science concepts (relative dating methods that include Law of Superposition and index fossils) and nature of science ideas (there is a diversity of scientists and geologic sites students observe in the Shape of Life videos and scientists use a variety of methods and tools). A variety of modalities are employed. Students go outside and observe the schoolyard, watch videos, create a “geologic site in a cup,” utilize technology for geologic time scale interpretations, work in small groups and participate in whole class discussions throughout the lessons.

In this lesson, students will watch a short film about the Cambrian Explosion and the extraor- dinary fossils of the Burgess Shale. Students will address preconceptions and misconceptions about early Cambrian life, and complete a time- line activity that will enable them to better appreciate just how recently—relatively speak- ing—multicellular life evolved on Earth. 

This series of two lessons uses cutting-edge scientific research (by Dr. Josh Lord and Dr. Jim Barry) on the effects of climate change on communities in the intertidal. Through a combination of a dynamic presentation and several videos, students are introduced to climate change’s effects on the ocean (ocean acidification and temperature increase) and what is known about how ocean organisms are affected. They examine the behavior, growth and interactions of the four species that Drs. Lord and Barry investigated.

In this lesson plan students explore the origins of muscles, nerves, and other animal adaptations through a study of the fascinating phylum Cnidaria. They will have the opportunity to observe the predatory organisms, including sea anemones and jellies and their amazing adaptations that they use to catch prey, defend themselves, etc. in one or more Shape of Life video segments.

In this lesson, students will examine a beautiful tree of life poster by artist Ray Troll and use it as a launchpad to explore evolutionary, or phylogenetic trees. Students will take a pre-assessment to address misconceptions about phylogenetic trees before completing a modeling activity to give them a better understanding of how trees are used to model evolutionary relationships.

Students explore the evolution of the phylum Chordata by constructing a "family tree" -- a diagram of evolutionary traits and animals. First, they use cards showing traits to create a diagram of evolutionary relationships. Then they watch a Shape of Life video to observe Chordates and their distinguishing traits. The teacher facilitates discussion and then they revise their diagrams and add information, including examples of modern animals that exhibit the traits. Many possible adaptations and extensions are listed at the end of the lesson to help engage all students.

In this activity students explore how animals are classified. For centuries taxonomists have been classifying the diversity of animal life based on observations and measurements of animals’ body plans. And now, with DNA sequencing, scientists have for the most part confirmed the work of earlier taxonomists.

Students will learn the characteristics that define five of the major invertebrate phyla by watching videos, reading and sorting animal cards. The phyla are: Cnidarians, Annelids, Arthropods, Molluscs, and Echinoderms.

Molluscan Macroevolution Module

Through a sequence of engaging laboratory investigations, coupled with segments from the  Shape of Life video, students study molluscs in the here-and-now and also learn to view them as products of a 550 million year evolution.

A brief hands-on investigation of Gastropods –snails and slugs – includes observation of the bodies and behavior of live slugs or snails and video segments.

We provide both high school and middle school versions of this lesson. The instructor's guide applies to both versions.

Students study the beautiful shells of gastropods not as objects of beauty but as artifacts born of an evolutionary arms race. This is a hands-on activity with shells, and written analysis interpreting the fossil record.

We provide both high school and middle school versions of this lesson. The instructor's guide applies to both versions.

A lab dissection using mussels and supported by several Shape of Life segments: students interpret bivalve adaptations as a radical case of divergent evolution.

We provide both high school and middle school versions of this lesson. The instructor's guide applies to both versions.

A lab dissection using oysters and supported by several Shape of Life segments: students interpret bivalve adaptations as a radical case of divergent evolution.

We provide both high school and middle school versions of this lesson. The instructor's guide applies to both versions.

Lab dissection of a squid supported by several Shape of Life segments: students interpret squid adaptations as a radical case of divergent evolution.

We provide both high school and middle school versions of this lesson. The instructor's guide applies to both versions.

Community Generated Lesson Plans

In this lesson, students combine art and science to interpret and illustrate graphical art. In this way, students will building understanding of the power of data infused art to convey the "bigger picture" of climate change.

"Hot issues such as climate change may not be the subjects of contention within the scientific community, but it seems clear that the science is not being communicated in a way that has the necessary impact. Although art cannot directly communicate science or change minds, it can create a space for dialogue around difficult issues" - Kieniewicz

This lesson, created by Stephen Hine, consists of a cross disciplinary activity incorporating aspects of wave characteristics from Physics, movement traits from Biology, and evaluating locomotion design from Engineering.

Evolution is the process of change in species, such as how echinoderms changed over time. Evolution of the echinoderms explains why this phylum has 7,000 types.

Concept Development: Evolution is the “change in an animal species over time.” A scientist named Charles Darwin believed what drove evolution is “natural selection.” Natural selection is a process where individuals with traits that are better suited to the environment in which they live, are more likely to survive longer and reproduce. In the video Molluscs: The Survival Game, you will see that molluscs have “descended with modification” to create a very diverse group of modern species.

In this lesson, developed by Kirby Welsh, students will be introduced to the concept of taxonomy, and categorization of organisms based on Carl Linnaeus’s system of classification.

In this lesson, students engage in the practice of science. They observe behaviors using Shape of Life videos with the audio and closed captioning turned off. They try to figure out what the phenomenon (the behavior) is and how it might help the organism to survive. Working in pairs they make a hypothesis about what they are observing with evidence to support their hypothesis.