You can start this unit with a teacher led anchor phenomenon. Turn On to add a new opening lesson, a new section to each lesson below, and a performance task ending the unit.
Note: If this is your first Mystery Science unit we recommend leaving this off. Turning this on will lengthen each lesson and require leading your students in open-ended science discussions.
In this unit, students develop an understanding of how animals and their environments change through time. Fossils provide a window into the animals and habitats of the past. Analyzing the traits of animals provides evidence for how those traits vary, how they are inherited, and how they have changed over time. Students also examine how the environment can affect inherited traits and determine which animals will survive in a particular environment.
This summative assessment is a combination of short response and fill-in-the-blank questions
intended to be administered at the end of this unit. It should take about 25 minutes for a
student to complete.
THIS LESSON WAS REVISED ON JULY 1, 2019. Here is a link to the previous version.
In this lesson, students explore the idea that the rock under our feet sometimes contains fossils, and investigate how these fossils reveal changes in habitat through time. In the activity, Fossil Dig, 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.
In this lesson, students will learn how we can infer what the outside of an animal looked like by using clues about their skeleton. In the visual activity, Guess What These Animals Eat, students examine photos of skulls of both familiar animals and dinosaurs to figure out what each animal eats.
THIS LESSON WAS REVISED ON AUGUST 21, 2019. Here is a link to the previous version.
In this lesson, students will learn about how fossil dinosaur tracks reveal how quickly a dinosaur was running. In the activity, Outrunning CeeLo, students figure out if they could have won a race with a dinosaur that was just their size. To determine the winner, students will compare the length of their running steps with the dinosaur’s steps.
You will need an area where your students can run for eight steps. Ideally the area will be at least 55 feet (about 17 meters) long. That’s about ⅔ the length of a high school basketball court.
Mark the starting line for the race with masking tape. Establish a line to follow or a destination point to keep everyone running in the same direction.
Check Your Materials
If you’re doing the activity on a gymnasium floor, we suggest students use Post-Its for marking their steps. Test to make sure Post-Its will stick to the surface where you are racing. If your students will be running in the playground, chalk might be a better choice for marking their steps.
Plan For the Race
Each student will run eight steps as fast as they can. Their partner will mark where their eighth step lands.
We recommend that no more than four students run at the same time. If too many students run at the same time, it can be confusing for the markers. Students who are not running or marking can cheer on the runners!
Make the Dinosaur Step Measuring Strings
After the students run, they will measure how far their dinosaur would have run in eight steps using a Dinosaur Step measuring string. There are four dinosaurs, each with a different leg length.
Before class, make the Dinosaur Step measuring strings. Find the black circle on the side of each Dinosaur Footprint printout. Fold two layers of clear tape over the spot to reinforce it. Then use your hole punch to punch a hole where marked. This is where you will tie the string.
Use your yardstick to measure string and cut the following lengths:
68 inches (173 cm) for VeeLo (Velociraptor)
68 inches (173 cm) for SanJuan (Sanjuansaurus)
78 inches (198 cm) for DeeNo (Deinonychus)
88 inches (224 cm) for CeeLo (Coelophysis)
Now you’ll connect the footprints with the strings: thread the correct string length through each hole on the matching dinosaur footprints and tie it on with a knot. Make sure that when the string is pulled straight, the footprints are the correct distance apart. (Distance is shown on the footprint.)
Write each dinosaur’s nickname on a Post-It and stick it to the page where marked (the nicknames are VeeLo, SanJuan, DeeNo, and CeeLo).
In this lesson, students learn how people create new breeds of animals by mating (selecting) individuals with desirable traits. In the visual activity, Designer Dogs, 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.
In this lesson, students learn about an example of how nature, not human beings, can slowly change the appearance of an animal using the process of selection. In the activity, Lizard Island, 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 found in Prep Instructions.
If you have a smaller group (between 1 to 15 students), you need to use the Small Group Version of this activity. This version has step-by-step activity instructions on the printout. The step-by-step in the lesson can be used for groups of 16+ students.
Don’t Throw Away Extra Adopt A Lizard Cards
There are three types of lizards in the activity simulation -- Not-So-Good Climbers, Good Climbers, and Excellent Climbers. It’s important that the simulation begins with an equal number of these lizard types. So, if the number of students in your classroom isn’t divisible by 3 (e.g. 28 students), then you will have a few extra Adopt A Lizard Cards printed out. Have students who finish quickly fill out these extra Adopt A Lizard cards.
Prep Baby Lizard Cards
Each student needs a half sheet of the Baby Lizard Cards. Cut each Baby Lizard page in half before class.
In this lesson, students discover why dogs’ expressions, like tail wagging, are so useful when living in a pack. In the activity, Field Journal, students watch videos of different animals that live in groups to simulate observing them in their natural habitats. They discuss and record their observations, and construct an explanation of how living in groups helps these animals survive.
In this lesson, students investigate mosquito life cycles and habitats and discover the role of mosquitoes in carrying diseases such as malaria. In the activity, Bug Off!, students evaluate the merits of different solutions for getting rid of mosquitoes at various locations in a town. Students design a solution to help the town deal with an abundance of mosquitoes resulting from a very rainy summer.
We suggest 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.
In this lesson, students examine how physical traits can be influenced by the environment. In the activity, Astronaut-in-Training, students analyze how a NASA astronaut’s traits changed during his “year in space.” Then they measure some of their physical traits (arm strength, height, and balance) and predict how their own traits might change after living in space.