Grade level:


Approximate Lesson Duration:

45 minutes

Unit/Lesson New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS):

HS-LS2-8. Evaluate the evidence for the role of group behavior on individual and species’ chances to survive and reproduce. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on: (1) distinguishing between group and individual behavior, (2) identifying evidence supporting the outcomes of group behavior, and (3) developing logical and reasonable arguments based on evidence. Examples of group behaviors could include flocking, schooling, herding, and cooperative behaviors such as hunting, migrating, and swarming.]

Brief Summary of Cultural Competencies Related to the Unit/Lesson:

  • Students misunderstand the meaning of the terms “adapt” and fitness (e.g., students think adapt means to resist or withstand rather than change in response to selection; they think fitness means the ability to do physically demanding tasks or having good general health rather than having favorable characteristics).
  • Students do not understand the amount of cause of genetic variation among organisms (e.g., students think all genetic variation is due to mutation or due to environmental factors).

Lesson Overview:

Essential Question(s)

Why do some species live in groups and others are solitary?

Enduring Understanding(s)

Group behavior of organisms has evolved because membership can increase the chance of survival for individuals and their genetic relatives.

Potential Misconceptions

High-school students may have difficulties with the various uses of the word “adaptation”. In everyday usage, individuals adapt deliberately. But in the theory of natural selection, populations change or “adapt” over generations, inadvertently students of all ages often believe that adaptations result from some overall purpose or design, or they describe adaptation as a conscious process to fulfill some need or want. Elementary- and middle-school students also tend to confuse non-inherited adaptations acquired during an individual’s lifetime with adaptive features that are inherited in a population. (NSDL, 2015).

Learning plan, experiences, intstruction and learning activities:

What is Expected?
  • List the intentional learning objectives on the board.


What is expected?
How will we hook (Introduce this to) the students?
  • Activate thinking
  • Consider the language you will use to introduce the lesson (See example in the table)

Link to Engagement

Show video one of the following videos:

This BBC Earth 3.5 minute video may be used as a phenomenon to initiate student three-dimensional thinking about the role of group behavior on both individual and species survival. The video shows cooperative group feeding behavior in several oceanic predators – gannets, dolphins, Bryde’s whales, and sharks – as well as the group avoidance behavior of the target prey – a school of sardines. The phenomenon could engage students along with the following driving questions:

The first time, allow students to view it prior to any discussion. Pause after this first showing and ask students to share their thoughts about their observations. After this discussion, show the video a second time, but encourage students to focus on a particular species and to be willing to share questions that come to their minds as they make careful observations. A third viewing may even be beneficial to give students a final opportunity to gather some evidence to support explanations that may answer their questions. As students consider questions and observe the phenomenon, it may also be helpful for the students to create a simple food web to show the relationships among organisms and identify the roles of predator, prey, and competitor.

  • What evidence is seen in the film to support the idea that cooperative hunting behavior may benefit the individual and the species?
  • What evidence is seen that cooperative avoidance behavior of the prey may also be beneficial?
  • Do you see any evidence of intra-specific cooperation?
  • How do you think any of these behaviors may have originated?
  • What factors may contribute to the development of cooperative group behavior?

Once students have chosen an animal (group), research the species’ lifestyle (habitat, diet, etc.), group behaviors (herding, hunting, communication, hierarchies, courtship, etc.), and other interesting facts. Students can be presented a list of animals such as native to New Jersey or a specific ecosystem and also animals that exhibit unique structural or behavioral traits or adaptations such as gynandromorphism and sequential hermaphroditism.

To make this activity three-dimensional, teachers should ask students to find the supporting evidence for the authors’ claims and to evaluate whether or not the evidence is a cause or a correlation.

What equipment, resources, or materials are needed?

Video of animal group behavior

Bird Behavior

Article related to bird video

Prairie Dog

Live Animal Webcam



How will we rethink or revise our thinking throughout the lesson?
  • What learning is confirmed?
  • What misconceptions are uncovered?
  • What is your new thinking?

Students can reflect on their original answers from opening questions to after the research project and share in a class discussion or writing task.

How will students self-evaluate and reflect on their learning?

Students will create a presentation on their research and reflection on their learning.

How will we tailor learning to varied needs, interests, and learning styles?
  • Students can work independently or in small groups of 2-3 students
  • Students can select the animal and behavior they would like to research.
  • Students can select the format/product to demonstrate their learning ( Google slide, poster board, video,etc.)
How will we organize the sequence of learning during the lesson?

Scaffold the Instruction

Check for understanding:

(Formative evidence such as conferencing, group Q/A, teacher observation, exit-slip, etc.)
  • Student conferencing and feedback on work.
  • Teacher observation of student work and discussions.
  • Rubric for self-assessment
Quiz/Test (optional):
(attach copy of assessment)


Performance Task/Project:
(attach rubric)

Research project


Download Lesson Plan PDF:


Science Grade 11-12 Lesson 3 84.67 KB 5 downloads

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