Bat Echolocation

Natalie Dutrow, PhD , Judge Memorial Catholic High School, Salt Lake City, UT; HHMI BioInteractive
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Illustration , Instructor Guide/Manual , Phenomenon , Article , Data
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.



Bat Echolocation is one of a series of Data Point resources from HHMI Biointeractive. Data Points engage student in analyzing and interpreting data from primary literature in the biological sciences.  The resources are intended to provide authentic phenomena to spark student discussion and exploration, but they can also serve as three-dimensional assessment items.   In this resource,  students analyze a spectrograph with corresponding video stills of bats using echolocation to locate and acquire prey.  The resource comes with both student and teacher materials.  Each includes background material.  The primary source for this Data Point may be found at:

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

MS-LS1-8 Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include mechanisms for the transmission of this information.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This HHMI Data Point could engage students at the beginning of teaching this performance expectation or as an assessment of the performance expectation. The resource is framed as a discussion starter in which students are asked to make claims in response to prompts provided in the Educator Materials as they analyze the data shown. The background information provided, coupled with the primary article on which this resource was based, could be used to help students develop an understanding that organisms respond to stimuli gathered through a variety of sensory receptors.

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
This resource engages students in analyzing and interpreting data from a primary source, but it relies heavily on the teacher to facilitate this engagement. Teachers might want to consider some procedure for collecting these student generated questions such as a driving question board. Students analyzing the data will be able to identify changes in the bat’s behavior that seem to correspond to the the type and frequency of echolocation “buzzes”. The patterns in the data can lead students to question if there is a relationship between the “buzz” pattern and the bat behavior.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The teacher can use the student analysis of this data set and corresponding video to prompt questions about the mechanisms driving the observed phenomenon in order to help students build their understanding of this core idea. If this resource is used to engage students at the beginning of a learning sequence, then it will be important to provide students additional learning experiences that build their understanding around this 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
This resource is framed around students using patterns to determine cause and effect relationships between changes in a bat’s behavior and biosensory feedback gained through the use of echolocation. Teachers can use question prompts to help students utilize the crosscutting concepts as a way to make sense of the observed phenomena.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This Data Point provides an authentic phenomenon that could anchor a series of three-dimensional learning activities. In this case, an initial discussion would allow the teacher to expose students’ thinking before facilitating students in exploring the phenomenon through additional learning activities. Alternatively, this resource could be used as an assessment item. In either case, the resource should be strengthened by combining it with other learning experiences.

  • Instructional Supports: By using authentic data from a primary source, this Data Point provides an excellent, scientifically accurate context in which students can engage in three-dimensional learning to make sense of a phenomenon. The background information and the discussion questions in the Educator Materials are excellent and provide guidance for teachers to support instruction. This resource is written as a discussion prompt, and a whole-class discussion would provide one venue for the teacher to hear student ideas and give feedback on those ideas. However, the resource is not a full lesson. As a result, it does not provide a full range of instructional supports, such as opportunities for students to build on feedback, guidance for differentiation, and scaffolds to support students in engaging in practices or applying crosscutting concepts. The teacher will need to incorporate these supports while building a full instructional sequence around this resource.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Whether it is used formatively or summatively, the Data Point offers an excellent opportunity to gather evidence of students’ three-dimensional learning (i.e. written arguments, written explanations, student discussions). A class discussion guided by the provided discussion questions would provide both a learning experience for students and a rich opportunity for informal formative assessment.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This is not an interactive, technology-based resource.