Muskox Maneuvers

Council for Environmental Education-Project WILD
Type Category
Instructional Materials
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.



In this activity, students create a physical model showing how muskoxen work together as a group to protect their young from predators (wolves).

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

- none -

Performance Expectations

3-LS2-1 Construct an argument that some animals form groups that help members survive.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This activity allows students to create a visual, interactive model of how animals form groups to help members survive. As noted in the lesson on page 130, this activity does not accurately model the behavior of muskox as written. (It shows only the bulls protecting the young, when, in real life, the cows also vigorously defend the young.) It is recommended that the activity be modified as noted in the Variation section (page 132) to reflect actual muskox behavior. In addition, the activity can be modified for use with 3rd grade students by providing photo cards with labels (bull, cow, calf, wolf) that can be hung around student’s necks with string. (This will help show students who is playing the role of which animal.) Students could also be provided with directions cards, defining their role in the activity. Finally, the teacher could read a script to help cue the students on what each participant (bull, cow, calf, wolf) should do. This lesson could be used along with other resources to allow students to gather evidence about how other animals in groups protect their young. The evidence about various types of animals could then be used to construct an argument. Have students construct an argument from evidence collected from the activity and other sources to support the claim that some animals form groups to help individual members survive.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Explain what a model is at the beginning of the lesson (including how scientists use models) and tell students that they will be creating a model. After the activity, ask students to share their ideas on what each part of the model did (e.g., bulls, cows, calves, and wolves), then explain how the parts of the model interact. This information could be compiled in a chart. Students could research muskox behavior further using books and other resources, then brainstorm how their model was similar to and different from what happens in the real world.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This activity explicitly illustrates how being part of a group helps animals survive. After the lesson, show videos and photos of muskox behavior so that students can see how the behavior that they modeled looks like in real life.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The lesson does not explicitly discuss the concept of systems. However, the teacher can describe what a system is and then ask students how they worked together as a system in the activity to protect the musk ox young. What were the components of the system? How did they work together?

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The lesson provides an explicit hands-on example of the DCI, but the practices and crosscutting concepts are not addressed.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson engages students in a meaningful, hands-on scenario, but does not clearly connect to practices or crosscutting concepts. Only one example of animal groups working together to protect their young is provided. The original activity is not scientifically accurate (but can be made accurate if the Variation is followed.) Supports/scaffolding are not provided for all learners.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: No assessments are included in the lesson. It is suggested that the lesson begin with a preassessment (in science notebooks or via a science talk): “What are some ways that you think animals work together to protect their young?” The teacher can chart student ideas.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -