Standards-Based Unit of Study - Examining Mammals - Grades 3-4

Published: 10/23/2012 11:39 AM
Examining Mammals
Grade Levels 3-4
Stage 1: Desired Results
What relevant goals (e.g., content standards, course or program objectives, learning outcomes) will this design address?
Program of Studies/Core Content:
SC-E-3.1.1 Things in the environment are classified as living, nonliving, and once living. Living things differ from nonliving things. Organisms are classified into groups by using various characteristics (e.g., body coverings, body structures).
SC-E-3.1.3 Each plant or animal has structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction. For example, humans have distinct body structures for walking, holding, seeing, and talking.
S-4-SI-3 Students will use evidence (e.g., descriptions) from simple scientific investigations and scientific knowledge to develop reasonable explanations.
S-4-SI-5 Students will communicate (e.g., graph, write) designs, procedures, and results of scientific investigations.
Scientists classify organisms based upon their structures. Mammals are one class of the larger group called vertebrates. Mammals as a group, share certain structures, which have some overarching similarities in form and function. Some of these shared characteristics make them distinct from the other classes: birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes.
Individual species of mammals display diversity in their structures. These diverse structures enable certain functions and behaviors, which help them to survive in their environments.
Evidence (in the form of observations and measurements) can be used to make inferences about mammal structures and their functions. Those inferences may need to be revised when new evidence is gathered.
Essential Questions
What kinds of inferences can be made from observations of structures?
How are form and function related?
Students will know:
Characteristics mammals share include: hair, warm-blooded (endothermic), and mammary glands, which in the case of females produce milk for young. Most, but not all, bear live offspring. Characteristics that distinguish mammals are hair and mammary glands.

Mammals have distinctly different kinds of teeth for different purposes. Three types of teeth are incisors, canines, and molars. The diet of mammals can be inferred from their teeth.

Evidence from mammals and other animals such as scat or tracks provide evidence from which we can draw inferences about the animal such as diet and/or behavior.

Other animal structures such as eyes, fur, feet/claws, aid an animal's survival its environment (e.g. by camouflage or defense).
Students will be able to:
Debate the classification of an organism as a mammal.
Observe and infer from mammal skulls, scat (replicas), fur, feet (replicas), and tracks.
Transfer the ability to observe and make inferences about structures and their functions to novel situations.
Communicate their conclusions and support them with evidence. Present them in a form so that others can understand and enjoy.
Stage 2: Assessment Evidence
What evidence will be collected to determine whether or not the understandings have been developed, the knowledge and skill attained, and the state standards met?
Culminating Task:
Students are members of a research team for a natural history museum. They have received a donation consisting of a box of mammal skulls and other artifacts (fur, and replicas of scat, feet, and tracks) from 5 different mammals to create a classroom museum. Unfortunately, none of the items were labeled properly. It is obvious that the skulls and artifacts came from 5 different animals, but the species are unknown. Each artifact has been assigned a number, but the list that detailed the identity of each numbered artifact is missing.

It is up to each research team to investigate one of the skulls. Each team will make observations and develop inferences about their skull that will help them hypothesize about the type of mammal it came from. As they learn more about each of the different artifacts and figure out which of each of the artifacts (scat, fur, feet and track) most likely matches their skull, they will revise their hypotheses concerning the mammal's identity. Once the groups have confirmed the identity of their mammal, they will create a way to communicate information about it in a museum display. That display should include information about the mammal's structures and how they aid in its survival in its environment (e.g. display, PowerPoint, informative poster, presentation, etc.)
Transfer Task:
Provide teams of students with an organism that doesn't neatly fit into the category of mammal or non-mammal (e.g. an echidna which lays eggs, but gives milk or a spider like a tarantula that has fur). Have them debate the classification of the organism. Then have them make observations of the structures of the organism and infer the functions.
Journals: e.g. observations/labeled drawings of skulls, fur samples, scat and feet replicas, and tracks. Inferences and questions students pose in journals based upon their observations. Tables/Charts comparing tooth types.
Quizzes: e.g. characteristics of mammals and other main vertebrate classes; tooth types; herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore characteristics
Open-ended prompts/challenges: Mammal/not mammal sorts. 3 things you learned today. Hypothesize about the identity of your group's mystery mammal and support your hypothesis with evidence and information. Respond to the essential questions of the unit.
Discussions with students: To see if they can support their inferences/conclusion, to gather more evidence of content knowledge. To gauge their responses to the essential questions of the unit.
End of Unit Test: questions regarding mammal vs. other vertebrate characteristics and classification, inferring diet from animal skulls, function of different types of teeth in herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores, function of fur, inferences that can be drawn from other animal signs.
Culminating Task, Self-Scoring Checklist:
_____ Shares conclusions based on evidence and information (and realizes there may be more than one explanation for the evidence at hand – may even discuss these alternative explanations)
_____ Provides clear explanations of the evidence that led to conclusions about the feeding behaviors, fur, scat, and tracks/feet.
_____ Acknowledges evidence that is still uncertain
_____ Demonstrates a relationship between the structure and function of the mammal skull and fur
_____ Utilizes visual aids/props to discuss conclusions and evidence
_____ Does not necessarily have a "right" answer for the identity of the mystery mammal. However, findings are based on evidence and information from research (e.g. in field guides, tradebooks) – findings for which there is refuting evidence are rejected or revised.

Compiled by Jennifer Francis, Powell County Schools,
Unit design template adapted from Understanding by Design, Grant and Wiggins
Unit adapted from Examining Mammals by First Hand Learning
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SC Int SBUS Mammals.docSC Int SBUS Mammals.doc
Karen Kidwell
Office of Next-Generation Learners
Division of Program Standards
500 Mero Street, 18th Floor CPT

Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-2106
Fax (502) 564-9848