Catch It!

CT State Department of Education
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Student Guide , Instructor Guide/Manual , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Experiment/Lab Activity
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.


Average Rating

3 (1 reviews)

5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
Most Recent Review

1 Dead link

This link no longer leads to the lesson described. The lesson does not seem to be available.


This lesson sequence involves student investigation of human reaction time and variables that may affect it. An intitial phase has students practice catching a dropped ruler and converting the distance it drops to the length of time it took to react. This provides an opportunity for data collection, graphing, and writing a conclusion. After this guided inquiry phase, students may conduct research on human senses and reaction time, or move on to designing their own investigations of the effects of variables of their choosing on their reaction times. PLEASE NOTE - the link is to the CT Department of Education Science Curriculum page. Scroll to find that you can select Word, PDF, and Spanish versions of this resource under the title Grade 5 Embedded Task.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Middle School
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Grade 5
  • Grade 4
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

4-LS1-2 Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on systems of information transfer.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the mechanisms by which the brain stores and recalls information or the mechanisms of how sensory receptors function.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
In this investigation, students model the process of animals receiving and responding to external stimuli by measuring the time it takes for them to catch a ruler after they see it begin to move.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
After a teacher-directed phase of investigation to practice measuring reaction times using a ruler-drop method, students plan and conduct their own investigations to test variables affecting reaction time they would like to explore. The investigation includes the written presentation of findings where students are able to use the data as evidence to support their conclusions. Teachers may also want to add a meaningful extension by providing an opportunity for student groups to present their data and conclusions to the class.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
In the Explore phase of the learning process, students' understanding of sensory input and processing is strengthened through research investigation. The initial investigation focuses on processing and responding to visual information, and this is the primary emphasis. The teacher should make explicit the idea that catching the ruler is an example of an animal's response to stimuli received by the eyes after it has been processed by the brain. Providing or eliciting other examples of how animals' responses aid in their survival would help deepen understanding. Other senses may be investigated separately or in combination with vision during the second phase of the investigation that is designed by the students.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Teachers should emphasize the connections to the Crosscutting Concept by focusing on the components of the nervous system and musculoskeletal system, and on the interactions between them. Students may require some background and/or review of these systems in order to understand how perceiving information is the domain of the nervous system and responding to that information requires the musculoskeletal system. It would also be helpful to provide the context that these systems also have their own subsystems, as well as being part of the larger human body system.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This activity allows students to work together to directly observe and measure how reaction time is a function of the interaction between different body systems (implicit), and how reaction time can be affected by different variables. It also provides scaffolded opportunities for students to plan and conduct a complete investigation that directly connects with the Disciplinary Core Idea.

  • Instructional Supports: Detailed teacher materials are provided including: background and pacing information, step-by-step notes, editable Word versions of all teacher materials (including Spanish language student materials), and suggestions for presenting student data and conclusions. Some teacher attention should be paid to ensuring that students have planned an investigation that controls variables and is a fair test. A checklist and/or feedback sheet of some kind would be beneficial for this purpose. The teacher manual suggests a few adjustments to support struggling students, although no differentiated materials are provided. The investigation provides many opportunities for extension.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Although a general checklist for a student poster is provided, no formal formative or summative assessment is provided.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: A resource page is provided that includes web links, and it is suggested that the research phase include internet sources. If desired, teachers might choose to teach or use Excel for graphing or have students share results using presentation software. There are also many internet resources for measuring reaction times electronically that can be found by searching “online reaction test.”