Bundle 4: Changing Life

Tier 3: How have humans impacted changing life?

Tier: How have humans impacted changing life?


Students will collect/compile and interpret data to understand the human impact on a selected organism. They will design a solution to mitigate that impact, and use scientific argument to present their idea to a governing body.


From the beginning of the unit, students have encountered many changes in living organisms, and potential causes for such changes. Some of these causes have been related to human impact, including human impacts that have been detrimental or even lethal to the plant or animal populations. Now, students will hone in on one species population (or system), and use the skills and data analysis techniques they have learned in this unit to construct a scientific solution for mitigating human impacts. Their audience for this written, oral, or filmed presentation will be a local governing body. Big ideas considered by students will be:

Big questions:

  • How have living things adapted over a long period of time in response to their environment?
  • How does the environment influence which organisms, and traits in organisms, continue in a population?
  • What is common ancestry?
  • How do humans influence the environment here in Iowa?

Standards addressed:

MS-LS4-1 Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.
Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships. 
MS-LS4-3 Analyze displays of pictorial data to compare patterns of similarities in the embryological development across multiple species to identify relationships not evident in the fully formed anatomy.
Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increases some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.
Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.
Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.

Tier in depth:

Part I: Collecting Data and Seeking Solutions

  1.  Students will be asked to analyze a living organism or system of organisms in Iowa (or relating to Iowa – for example, gulf organisms affected by the dead zone), and to seek data describing their genetic and/or other changes in the population over time.
  2. The student or student group will then be tasked with making a case to a governing body about whether or not the human impact on this living thing is significant, and what they argue is an appropriate response.

Part II: Presenting Data and Arguing from Evidence

  1. In the students’ presentation, they will explain how the environment relating to their chosen organism has changed through known history, how scientists think the organism has adapted with evidence in the fossil record, embryological development, anatomical similarities with other living things, and genetic analysis. They will explain what the ideal environmental conditions for the organism would be and how humans may alter that. They will explain what they think would be a likely change in the organism’s future development based off the same evidence that helped scientists to explain how the living things already changed.
  2.  Students should have a plan for how human effects on the organism could be minimized in the future.
  3. This plan, supported with evidence from step one, will be presented to a governing body (or other legitimate audience).