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                        Unit 8: Variations Among Living Things

Time Frame: The content of this unit should be taught throughout the year with
activities integrated into all content areas.

Unit Description

This unit will introduce the concept of variations among living things. This concept
includes living things that may seem similar (dogs, flowers, trees).

Student Understandings

Students recognize that there are variations in living things. Starting with well-known
objects, such as dogs, students will be able to identify a large number of variations (e.g.,
in color, size, shape of body, shape of head). Moving to lesser-known objects, children
will recognize and describe variations in wildflowers, behaviors, movement, etc., and
begin to relate these to adaptations and use.

Guiding Questions

       1. Can students recognize variations (breeds) within the same type of animal
       2. Can students recognize variations within the same type of plant (trees or
       3. Can students describe similarities and differences between two given objects
          in nature?

Unit 8 Grade-Level Expectations (GLEs)

GLE # GLE Text and Benchmarks
Science as Inquiry
4.        Use the five senses to describe observations (SI-E-A3)
7.        Express data in a variety of ways by constructing illustrations, graphs, charts,
          tables, concept maps, and oral and written explanations as appropriate (SI-E-
          A5) (SI-E-B4)
Physical Science

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GLE #     GLE Text and Benchmarks
13.       Sort objects based on their properties (e.g., size, weight, texture) (PS-E-A1)
          Activity: Teacher will need to navigate this site with an LCD projector and
          computer. It uses a Venn diagram with which the teacher can determine how
          the shapes are to be sorted.

GLE # GLE Text and Benchmarks
Life Science
25.       Identify easily observable variations within types of plants and animals (e.g.,
          features of classmates, varieties of trees, breeds of dogs) (LS-E-A4)

                              Sample Activities

Activity 1: Animal Sorting (GLEs: 4, 13, 25)

Have students bring in a stuffed animal. First have students sort the stuffed animals by
type (e.g., bears, dogs, cats). Have students note that they are all models of animals, but
they are different types of animals. Then divide students into groups to work with a given
animal type. Have each group further sort by another attribute such as color, size, etc.
Have students note that even though they have the same types of animals, the animals can
have different characteristics. Have students resort their animals by another attribute that
they choose. Have students share why they grouped the animals as they did. Through
discussion and questioning, the students should begin to understand what is meant by

Activity 2: Dog Pound (GLEs: 4, 7, 25)

Collect a wide variety of dog pictures from magazines or use a book about dogs and copy
pictures. (Care should be taken to have the dogs appear to be the same distance from the
camera to enable realistic size comparisons.) Have students sort the pictures into dog
pounds (e.g., group by which they think weigh more or less). Have students describe their
groupings and recall real life experiences with different sizes of dogs. Have a chart with
pictures of different breeds of dogs or let students create a chart. Discuss with students
what breed means, and have students sort their pictures by color, size or hair type (long
or short). Students should understand that there is a wide variety (breeds of dogs) and be
able to list other examples of animal types (e.g., cats, cows, fish, birds) that display

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Activity 3: Tree Walk (GLEs: 4, 7, 25)

Students take a walk around the school looking at the trees or shrubs. Students may look
at branch cuttings and pictures of trees brought in to the classroom. Students note the
different types of trees they see. Students draw the different types of trees they see on
clipboards provided by the teacher. Upon returning to class, students explain (using
developmentally appropriate vocabulary) the variations they saw in the trees. They can
talk about size, color, the tree trunks, leaves, needles, etc.

Activity 4: Eye Color (GLEs: 4, 7, 25)

Using a digital or instant print camera, take close up photographs of students (focus on
faces, only). Make a class chart of students’ eye color (or hair color). Have students total
the number of each and do a bar graph of the results. Through probing questions, have
students conclude that humans can have variations as well. Make a list on the board or on
a flip chart of as many variations in human beings that students can think of. The concept
of different races and ethnic groups, which demonstrates variations in humans, could be

                                   Sample Assessments

General Guidelines

Documentation of student understanding is recommended to be in the form of portfolio
assessment. Teacher observations and records as well as student-generated products may
be included in the portfolio. All items should be dated and clearly labeled to effectively
show student growth over time.

General Assessments

      Anecdotal notes
      A checklist or rubric
      Student-generated work such as drawings, data collection charts, and experiment
      Audio tapes, video tapes or photographs
      Graphic representations (charts)

Activity-Specific Assessments

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       Activity 1: Upon completing the stuffed animal sorting, the teacher will set up an
        assessment using small plastic pet animals (or photos of pet animals). Using two
        plastic bowls or trays, the student will sort a variety of pets by one attribute (e.g.
        color, type, and size). The teacher will ask the student to explain his or her
        reasoning then have him sort by two different attributes. The teacher observes and
        notes accuracy of sorting and ability to explain his/her reasoning.

       Activity 2: The teacher will have several pictures of dogs for students to look at
        and describe. Each student will look through the cards and verbally tell what
        he/she sees (e.g., color, body build, unique face, short or long tail). The student
        will recall any real life experiences with dogs and relate them to the study of dog
        varieties. The teacher will note student ability to make connections, describe
        attributes and accurately tell similarities and differences among the dogs in the

       Activity 4: Upon completing the eye color chart, the teacher will question each
        student about the data and record his/her ability and skill. Specific questions may
        include: Which eye color do the most students have? Which color do the least
        students have? How are two students with the same eye color different in other
        ways? How are two students with different eye color alike in other ways? The
        teacher looks for understanding of concept and the student’s ability to describe
        similarities and differences accurately.



           Carson-Dellosa Publishing Company, Inc. (1991). Hands on Science.
           Full Option Science System. (1995). Animals Two by Two.
           The Mailbox, Kindergarten. (April/May 2002). The Education Center.
           The Mailbox 1995-1996 Yearbook, pp.248–255. The Education Center

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