Lab 14 Variation in Traits: How Do Beetle Traits Vary Within and Across Species?

National Science Teachers Association
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Instructor Guide/Manual , 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.



Lab 14 Variation in Traits: How Do Beetle Traits Vary Within and Across Species?  is one lab from the NSTA Press book, Argument-Driven Inquiry in Life Science. This lab introduces students to the variation that occurs within beetle species and among closely related species by comparing three representative species. Students are provided with the opportunity to explore the ways beetles vary physically and how the variations relate to their environment. Lab 14 gives students the opportunity to examine how scientists use patterns to make sense of natural phenomena while using observations and inferences to support and/or refute ideas.

The investigation provides background content for the educator and comprehensive instructions for incorporating the lesson into the class. Secondary to the "Teacher Notes" is a student "Lab Handout" and "Checkout Questions" that can be used in its entirety or in segments.  The introductory chapters and appendices also provide important guidance on implementing argument-based inquiry labs.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

MS-LS1-5 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.

Clarification Statement: Examples of local environmental conditions could include availability of food, light, space, and water. Examples of genetic factors could include large breed cattle and species of grass affecting growth of organisms. Examples of evidence could include drought decreasing plant growth, fertilizer increasing plant growth, different varieties of plant seeds growing at different rates in different conditions, and fish growing larger in large ponds than they do in small ponds.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include genetic mechanisms, gene regulation, or biochemical processes.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This lesson uses the "Argument-Driven Inquiry" model (ADI). If the educator is unfamiliar with this model there is Appendix 2 that will provide scaffolding for the writing component of the activity. Students begin by reading the "Introduction" and the guiding question: "How do beetle traits vary within and across species?". The students in groups will decide on the type of data to collect, the method of collection, and how to analyze the data collected by using the questions provided as a scaffold. Reference sheets on three types of beetles are provided. However, the educator should encourage students to use other information sources, including websites. Two websites are included in the student handouts.

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
The lab investigation, in conjunction with the Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI) approach, provides a scaffold for constructing explanations for the student data. The scaffolding is provided by a Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning template approach that is explained in the "Teacher Notes" provided. Using the ADI approach, students will be provided time for both individual and group oral reporting, culminating in group "argument presentations" and individual written reports.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
As students research, the educator needs to guide them to look at individual variations within a species and whether they provide a better mechanism for survival in their environment. This can be accomplished by encouraging students to arrange their data in such a way that trends become visible and help to analyze the observations to develop their evidence.

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
As groups begin to collect data, suggest that they look at differences in the shape of certain structures that are common across the species. To increase the data, teachers can include more than the three species of beetles provided on the reference sheets. This investigation also provides an opportunity to add information on taxonomy as a precursor for Lab 14. This way structures can be observed amongst beetle species that later serve to increase the data collected.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The science and engineering practice, disciplinary core idea, and crosscutting concept, work together to support students in three-dimensional learning to construct a scientific explanation based on evidence. The three dimensions work together to support student collection and analysis of data to facilitate reasoning. The inclusion of claim, evidence, and reasoning in conjunction with the Argument-Driven approach allows the educator to provide the opportunity for students understanding.

  • Instructional Supports: This activity provides the opportunities for students to express, clarify, justify, and interpret their ideas and respond to peer and teacher feedback both orally and in written form. The guiding question, checkout questions, and reference sheets engage the students in authentic and meaningful research that reflects the practice of science as experienced in the real world.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The extensive teacher notes, the appendix that supports the Argument-Driven Inquiry approach, and thoroughness of the instructions, provides multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding of the performance expectation, disciplinary core idea, and crosscutting concepts. There are multiple opportunities for educator monitoring of progress.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -