Open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science.

Science curriculum for K—5th grades.

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90 sec
  • Hands-on lead students in the doing of science and engineering.
  • NGSS-aligned and Common Core make the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards and support Common Core.
  • Less prep, more learning prep in minutes not hours. Captivate your students with short videos and discussion questions.

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Animals Through Time

Animal Survival & Heredity

2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade

NGSS Standards covered: 3-LS4-1 , 3-LS3-1 , 3-LS2-1 , 3-LS4-3 , 3-LS4-4 , 3-LS4-2 , 3-LS3-2
In this unit students will develop an appreciation for how animals and the places they live (their habitats) are not constant—they have changed over time. Fossils give us a window to the animals and habitats of the past. Selective breeding shows us not only how some animals of the past became domesticated, but allows us to imagine how they might look in the future. Less
  1. Lessons
  2. Activity Prep
  3. Assessments

Mystery 1: Habitats, Fossils, & Environments Over Time

Fossil Dig

In this Mystery, students explore the idea that the rock under our feet sometimes contains fossils. In the activity, students investigate how these fossils reveal changes in habitat through time. In this activity, students use paper to create a model fossil dig. They identify traits of fossils to determine what the habitat looked like when these organisms were alive. Then they use this information to figure out where some Mystery Fossils belong in their fossil dig.

THIS LESSON WAS REVISED ON JULY 1, 2019. If you've prepped prior to that date, we suggest using the previous version.

Number of students:
Scissors
30 pairs
Dot Stickers
90 stickers. We prefer stickers because they are easier to distribute in a classroom. Tape will also work.
Details Hide details
Glue Sticks
30 glue sticks
Fossil Dig printout Print 30 copies
Fossil Dig Answer Key (2 pages) printout Print 1 copy
Fossil Dig Questions printout Print 30 copies
Mystery Fossils printout Print 15 copies

Prep Instructions

We suggest students work in pairs. Homeschool students can work on their own.

Prepare Mystery Fossils

Mystery Fossils will print two per page so you may want to cut each page in half before class. Each student needs a ½ sheet for the activity.

Mystery 2: Structures & Adaptations, Fossil Evidence, Classification

Guess What These Animals Eat

In this Mystery, students will learn how we can infer what the outside of an animal looked like, by using clues about their skeleton. In this visual activity, students examine a printout that shows skulls of both familiar animals and dinosaurs. Questions prompt students to examine each animal's teeth to figure out what each animal eats.

Number of students:
What Do These Animals Eat? (4 pages) printout Print 30 copies
What Do These Animals Eat? Answer Key (4 pages) printout Print 1 copy

Prep Instructions

No prep required.

Mystery 3: Fossil Evidence, Behavior

Outrunning CeeLo

In this Mystery, students will learn how a dinosaur’s footprints reveal how quickly a dinosaur was running.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We are in the process of addressing your feedback and revising this activity. The new version will be live by mid-August 2019. If you're prepping supplies for the new school year, please click here to view the new supply list.

Below is the Activity Prep and supplies for the current activity.

Before class, you need to photocopy worksheets for students and tape printouts of dinosaur footprints to the floor in the right spacing. (We're calling this the dinosaur racetrack.)

For the racetrack, you will need:

For the activity, each student will need:

Activity Summary

Students will try to “outrun” a dinosaur by taking larger steps than the dinosaur took. Using a number line, students will calculate the “stride length” of their classmates. Using a graph, students will also figure out whether their classmates could outrun a stegosaurus, a Tyrannosaurus rex, or a triceratops.

Mystery 4: Heredity, Variation, & Selection

Designer Dogs

In this Mystery, students learn how people create new breeds of animals by mating (selecting) individuals with desirable traits. In this visual activity, students are shown pairs of adult dogs and three potential puppies. They study the physical traits of the dogs and look for the puppy that shares these traits.

Number of students:
Designer Dogs (2 pages) printout Print 30 copies

Prep Instructions

We suggest that students work in pairs for this activity. Homeschool students can work alone.

Mystery 5: Heredity, Variation, & Selection

Lizard Island

In this Mystery, students will play a simulation based on a real-life experiment called “Lizard Island.” The simulation shows an example of how nature, not human beings, can slowly change the appearance of an animal using the process of selection. In this activity, students simulate how natural selection affects a group of tree-climbing green lizards when their island is invaded by hungry brown lizards. This simulation only works for groups of 16 or more students. If you have a smaller group, use the Small Group Version of this activity in Prep Instructions.

Step 1: Figure out which version of this activity you’ll do.

In this interactive simulation, students will discover how natural selection affects a group of tree-climbing green lizards when their island is invaded by hungry brown lizards.

If you have a group of 16 or more, you can use the step-by-step version of the video above.

If you have a smaller group, you need to use the small group version, which can be used by one student or a group of up to 15 students. If you are using the small group version, print out these instructions for activity prep and the activity. Step-by-step instructions are on the print-out.

Step 2: Print out materials.

Use the chart below to figure out how many copies of each file to print. Depending on your class size, you may have some extra copies, but you shouldn’t run short.

How many students do you have? Print these
16 to 18
  • 6 sets of Adopt A Lizard printouts (18 pages)
  • 9 sets of Baby Lizard pages (9 pages)
  • 1 copy per student of How Many Lizards printout
  • 19 to 21
  • 7 sets of Adopt A Lizard printouts (21 pages)
  • 10 sets of Baby Lizard pages (10 pages)
  • 1 copy per student of How Many Lizards printout
  • 22 to 24
  • 8 sets of Adopt A Lizard printouts (24 pages)
  • 10 sets of Baby Lizard pages (10 pages)
  • 1 copy per student of How Many Lizards printout
  • 24 to 27
  • 9 sets of Adopt A Lizard printouts (27 pages)
  • 12 sets of Baby Lizard pages (12 pages)
  • 1 copy per student of How Many Lizards printout
  • 27 to 30
  • 10 sets of Adopt A Lizard printouts (30 pages)
  • 14 sets of Baby Lizard pages (14 pages)
  • 1 copy per student of How Many Lizards printout
  • Step 3: Cut Baby Lizard cards.

    Cut each Baby Lizard page in half to make two Baby Lizard cards.

    Mystery 6: Animal Groups & Survival

    Field Journal

    In this Mystery, students discover why dogs’ expressions, like tail wagging, are so useful when living in a pack. In the activity, students observe other social animals and construct an explanation of how living in groups helps these animals survive. In this activity, students make Field Journals and watch videos of different animals that live in groups. They discuss and record their observations of how animal groups help members of the group survive.

    Number of students:
    Stapler
    8 staplers
    Field Journal (3 pages) printout Print 30 copies
    Field Journal Answer Key (3 pages) printout Print 1 copy

    Prep Instructions

    We suggest students work in table groups of four and share a stapler to construct their Field Journals. Homeschool students can work on their own.

    The page numbers of the Field Journal will look scrambled on the printout, but when students fold them and make their booklets, the pages will be in order.

    Mystery 7: Habitat Change & Engineering

    Bug Off!

    In this Mystery, students investigate mosquito life cycles and habitats and discover the role of mosquitoes in carrying diseases such as malaria. In the activity, students evaluate the merits of different solutions for getting rid of mosquitoes at various locations in a town. In this activity, students figure out how to help a town deal with an abundance of mosquitoes resulting from a very rainy summer. Students design a solution to solve the town’s mosquito problem.

    Number of students:
    Bug Off! Backyard printout Print 30 copies
    Bug Off! Picnic Area printout Print 30 copies
    Bug Off! Playground printout Print 30 copies
    Problem Solver’s Sheet (2 pages) printout Print 30 copies

    Prep Instructions

    We recommend students work in pairs so they can share their ideas with a partner. Homeschool students can work on their own.

    We have provided three Bug Off! worksheets, each picturing a different location in town. In a class, we suggest giving students a choice of which site they’d like to work with. You could also choose to have everyone come up with a solution for the same site. If students finish early, you can have them work on other sites so they can think of multiple solutions to the mosquito problem.

    Mystery 8: Traits & Environment

    Astronaut-in-Training

    In the Mystery, students examine how physical traits can be influenced by the environment. In the activity, students analyze how a NASA astronaut’s traits changed during his “year in space,” then they predict how their own traits might change after living in space. In this activity, students measure some of their physical traits (arm strength, height, and balance) and learn how spending time in the environment of outer space can change those characteristics.

    Number of students:
    Ruler
    30 rulers
    Post-Its (3")
    30 post-its
    Traits in Space printout Print 30 copies
    Traits in Space Answer Key printout Print 1 copy

    Prep Instructions

    We recommend that students work in pairs. Homeschool students working alone will need help with some steps.

    Each pair of students will need floor space where they can do push-ups and walk 15 heel-to-toe steps in a straight line. They will also need wall space where they can do push-ups against the wall.