Mass Environmental Change

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
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.


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In this lesson, students explore what happens to organisms when they cannot meet their needs due to changes in the environment. They categorize scenario cards representing different changes to an environment, then discuss in a whole group. Using what they have learned, they write about how changes to the environment can affect organisms. The resource link takes you to a full unit titled Effects of Changes in an Environment on the Survival of Organisms, of which Mass Environmental Change is a lesson.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 3
Access Restrictions

Free access with user action - The right to view and/or download material without financial barriers but users are required to register or experience some other low-barrier to use.

Performance Expectations

3-LS4-4 Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change.

Clarification Statement: Examples of environmental changes could include changes in land characteristics, water distribution, temperature, food, and other organisms.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to a single environmental change. Assessment does not include the greenhouse effect or climate change.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students categorize and discuss environmental change scenario cards to learn how changes in the environment affect the organisms living there. To address the full text of the PE, after categorizing the scenarios, students could pick a scenario and make a claim(s) about potential solutions to the problem.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
At the end of the lesson, students are asked to write about the effects of environmental changes on organisms. To make the use of this practice more explicit, the teacher can ask students to write an explanation including claim, evidence from what they learned in the lesson and reasoning. Students could share their explanations and critique the explanations of others during a science talk. In addition, students could gather additional evidence to show how changes in the environment can affect organisms. They might even be asked to create their own set of scenario cards and then use them as evidence to support the claim that changes in the environment affect organisms.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
In the lesson, students study scenarios illustrating how changes in the environment affect the ability of organisms to get what they need to survive. Teachers could add scenario cards of their own to include examples specific to the area where they live and/or other environmental changes that meet the core idea.

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
The crosscutting concept of cause and effect is not explicitly mentioned in this unit, but the teacher can explain what cause and effect is, provide examples for students, and then ask students to brainstorm examples of cause and effect on their own. As they discuss the impact of environmental change on organisms, the teacher can point out the causes and effects. It is recommended that the teacher make a class chart to record causes and effects present in the scenarios that students study (as well as other examples).

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson aligns with the DCI (LS2.C), can be modified to meet the practice of constructing explanations, and implicitly meets the crosscutting concept of cause and effect.

  • Instructional Supports: No supports for differentiation or extension resources are provided. Additional resources for multiple and varied opportunities to explore this concept are not provided .

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Students are asked to summarize their learning in science notebooks at the end of the lesson and a limited formative assessment are provided at the beginning of the lesson. However, no additional assessments are included.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -