Owl Survival Simulation Activity to use with the Novel ‘Hoot’ by Carl Hiaasen

This lesson plan was modified to be used along with the novel “Hoot” by Carl Hiaasen. It can be used as a stand alone lesson as part of your Ecology Unit.


  • simulate the struggle for survival of an owl family.
  • bring food back to the nest despite obstacles.
  • feed and take care of owlets.
  • live in a nest as an owlet.
  • experience how adaptations affect a species.
  • discuss the importance of resources for a community.

Lesson Plan Resources:


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  • Colored Chalk (to outline nests) or painters tape
  • Black Beans 1-3 lbs (food)
  • White Beans – 5 beans (poison)
  • Additional larger Beans to represent mice, rodents, etc
  • Plastic forks (2 per owl parent)
  • Small paper or plastic cups (1 per owlet)
  • Owl Assignment Sheet – Cut up for students to pick their role



Updated: Dunkin’ for Density using Google Sheets

Updated 2017

Spreadsheet that will graph 20 trials, along with Density of Water

Google Sheets: Dunkin’ for Density Spreadsheet 2017

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Updated for 2016

I updated my Dunkin’ for Density Lesson for 2016, I use this lesson with my 6th graders as part of our unit on properties of matter. I wanted it to be more data driven and have them analyze the data from all of their trials, and then compare their data to their classmates. I changed the objective to:

Change the density of the film canister so that 90-99% of the canister is suspending under water.



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For more details about this activity, please see my original post. If you have used this lesson with your students, please let me know, you can post it on my Twitter feed @MSScienceBlog

Heights Lab – How tall is the average 7th grader?

Heights Lab (Public).jpg

This introductory lab is a fun way to analyze data and the students look forward to finding the results each year. Who will be taller, boys or girls? Will we be taller than last year’s class? You can really analyze the data in multiple ways, you can also add the concept of min, max, mode, and range in addition the mean, you can look for trends, and you can talk about sample size, etc…


  • Heights Lab Introduction and directions (Google Slides)
  • Data Collection (Google Sheets)
  • Heights Lab Template (Google Doc)
  • Construction paper taped to wall/column
  • Metric Tape Measures attached to wall or column over paper
  • Marker
  • Ruler



Scientific and Engineering Practices (SEP 1 to SEP8) Consolidated

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Images above are from: http://www.nap.edu/read/13165/chapter/7#50 

This post highlights the eight Scientific and Engineering Practices and spotlights a few lessons related to each practice. I had this as eight separate posts but decided to consolidate for easier viewing.

For more details and examples about the Science and Engineering Practices, visit NSTA.

Tag: SEP8 – click for more lessons that cover this practice

Tag: SEP7 – click for more lessons that cover this practice

Tag: SEP6 – click for more lessons that cover this practice

Tag: SEP5 – click for more lessons that cover this practice

Tag: SEP4 – click for more lessons that cover this practice

Tag: SEP3 – click for more lessons that cover this practice

Tag: SEP2 – click for more lessons that cover this practice

Tag: SEP1 – click for more lessons that cover this practice

What is Mining? An introduction to Mining


  • Google Slides (Public) – this presentation will outline what mining is, where it occurs, types of mines, what commodities are mined in the United States, and covers mining in New Jersey. Maps are from the CDC
  • What is mining?  (pdf) – this is a guided handout that students will take notes on as we discuss mining

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mining Simulation

Cookie Mining – with an example of cookies used for the activity.


This is one of my favorite activities from our minerals and mining unit. It takes about 1 whole class period to explain the activity, collect data, eat the cookie (& crumbs), and clean up. We discuss our results the next class and determine who made the most profit.

When determining the value of the chocolate ore, I have the students place their chocolate pieces close together in one area of the map. When they are done, I go around and circle the area of chocolate and give their chocolate a rating. They count the number of boxes their chocolate covers and enter it into their spreadsheet.

If there are crumbs attached to the chocolate, I call that ‘slag’ and it lowers the value of the chocolate ore. This leads to a great discussion afterwards when we compare the profits and talk about land use. Is it better to get out as much chocolate as you can, even if you get a lot of slag, or is it better to remove just the chocolate even though you will have less in the end? How is this similar to coal mining? Diamond mining?

Students try different techniques to extract the chocolate.
Cookie blasting – extracting as much chocolate as you can in 5 minutes.


Color Coding Families on the Periodic Table

This is a fun way to introduce the families of the periodic table and their properties. The students really enjoy watching the video clips from Periodic Table Videos and the experiments performed by the Chemistry Department at the University of Nottingham.

As a class, we found the location of each family, recorded the elements for each family, discussed their properties, color coded the periodic table, and discussed any patterns they noticed.


  • Google Slides (Public) – updated for 2016 with links to the YouTube videos to view an element in each family
  • Handout – (pdf) students take notes for each family and use this is a reference for further lessons
  • Periodic Table – (Updated 2016 pdf) I like to use this student version of the periodic table from Jefferson Lab for my 6th graders. I photocopy it double sided – one side stays blank while the other side is color coded. If students have binders with a clear pocket on the outside front, I ask that they place it there for quick reference and access.

This activity was featured on the following blog post: The Joy of Chemistry – A Unit in Photos a few years ago. You can read about how she used this lesson in her 3rd grade classroom as part of her Chemistry unit.

Below is a video about Sodium from Periodic Table Videos. They have a lot of great chemistry videos posted for free on their site, be sure to check them out!

Patterns of the Periodic Table: Finding Shells and Valence Electrons


  • Google Slides – students will learn how to find the number of energy levels (shells) for elements in periods 1 – 8 and the number of valence electrons in their outer shells using the periodic table. Updated (Public link)
  • Handout – updated Shells & Valence Electrons
    • Older version: How to determine the number of valence electrons and shells using the element’s group number and period – Notes (pdf) and Slides (ppt)
  • Find that Element!” Worksheet (pdf)- Practice finding the period & group for each element


Real Time Earthquake Data Mapping Activity

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Image Source: USGS

Essential Questions:

  • Where do earthquakes occur?
  • How are earthquakes recorded and measured?
  • What is the relationship between earthquake location and magnitude?
  • How do earthquakes impact humans and the environment?


  • Internet Access & USGS Earthquake Data
    • this link is set to the following settings: 30 days, 2.5+ magnitude, terrain, and no plate boundaries
  • Google Sheets Template – one per table top map
    • Earthquake Data Mapping Activity (Public Template)
      • to edit this spreadsheet, make a copy for each map, then share editing rights with each group of students who will be working on that map
        • if you don’t use Google Drive, you can download the Google Sheet as an Excel spreadsheet
      • ex: Map A data is shared with 4 students from period 1, 4 students from period 2, 4 students from period 3, 4 students from period 4, and 4 students from period 5. When done, they will have 200 EQs plotted and color coded on the table top map.

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  • Colored pencils or markers per map
  • 1 Table sized map per lab group (3-6 students) – printed and assembled
    • The map will remain on the table, as the next class comes in, they will add the data for their assigned region(s) to the same map as the class before them

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  1. Assemble one table map and materials per lab group.
  2. Show students how to use and navigate the USGS website, find EQ data, and how to record their data on the Google Spreadsheets.
  3. Assign each group a map and 1-2 regions of the world. They will collect 25 data points for each region. They can choose any EQs over a magnitude of 3.0 for their region(s).
  4. Once they have all of their data, they will plot the EQs onto the table map. The magnitude of the EQ is the color they will plot onto the map.
    1. ex. Magnitude of 7.5 will be a purple dot
  5. Students will analyze their data and look for patterns
    1. What regions of the world have EQs?
    2. What regions of the world had more EQs? Less?
    3. What regions of the world had lower magnitude EQs? Higher?
    4. Why are EQs located where they are?
    5. etc…
  6. After this activity, I introduced Plate Tectonics and we discussed the relationship between EQs and tectonic plates.


NGSS: Scientific & Engineering Practices (SEP)

If you are looking for lesson plans that cover the following NGSS Standards, you can do a search using either tags or the search box. I have tagged all of my blog entries with the corresponding SEP.


  • SEP1 – Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  • SEP2 – Developing and Using Models
  • SEP3 – Planning and Carrying out Investigations
  • SEP4 – Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • SEP5 – Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
  • SEP6 – Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
  • SEP7 – Engaging in Argument from Evidence
  • SEP8 – Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information