Educational Resources

We’ve developed and implemented each module and series of lessons over the past few years. All of the GPSE materials – modules, lessons, and activities – are designed such that educators can implement them at their school or institution. Please feel free to use and alter these materials to fit your class’s needs and specific curriculum.

Although you do not need to contact GPSE to use these materials, we would greatly appreciate a brief email to let us known whenever you do. Furthermore, we would love your feedback about the materials. Please let us know what worked in your classroom and how we might improve our activities and lessons.

Introductory Module: Animal Behavior, Microbiology and Ecology

This is the first module that was developed by GPSE. We initially implemented it during the fall semester of our program when we were designing science fair projects in the spring.

The premise of this module is to introduce middle school students to the scientific method and data collection through three main focal areas of biology: Animal Behavior, Microbiology, Ecology.

These three lessons were designed for middle school students but could easily be altered for high school and introductory college level classes. Each lesson differs in location, but all are designed to be conducted in two, one-hour sessions. The microbiology lesson was designed for a basic classroom, while the animal behavior lab was designed for a zoo and the ecology lab was designed for a park.

This module constitutes the first in a series of three experimental modules. The main goals of this module are introduce students to the scientific method, allow them to test specific hypotheses, and highlight the idea that many hidden patterns in the world around us are revealed using careful scientific thinking. As a secondary goal, this module seeks to introduce students to techniques and content knowledge surrounding microbiology.

Download Microbiology Lesson

Animal Behavior
This is the second module in the three module series. At this point, students have had at least one experience using the scientific method (Module I – Microbiology). This activity seeks to further build upon this experience base, while introducing students to another field of scientific inquiry, the study of animal behavior. One primary goal is to demonstrate that the scientific method can be applied from microbes to meerkats. The second is to introduce students to the idea that careful observation itself can provide enough information to test hypotheses without the need for more invasive techniques.

Download Animal Behavior Lesson

Download Animal Behavior PPT

Download Thinking Like a Scientist PPT


The Ecology Module is the last in this series of experimental units, and also
deals with the most abstract content: how the physical features of natural habitats
determine who lives in them and how those residents are distributed. As with the
Microbiology module, this experiment seeks to highlight to students that important
patterns in nature often require careful observation and scientific thinking, not to mention
the use of technology (pH and temperature meters), before they become obvious. This
module also should teach students that organisms have a “comfort zone”, or a set of
environmental conditions in which they do best, and outside of which they do poorly or
are absent altogether. One additional goal should be to discuss with students how these
concepts translate to larger scales, such as regional, continental or global.

Download Ecology Lesson

Natural Selection

How do populations change over time?  What are the forces that drive evolution on Earth?  Let your students experience these forces hands on through this natural selection activity.

Natural Selection

Phylogenetics and Arthropod Diversity

Arthropods, especially insects, are the most diverse and speciose group of
animals in the world, and they display a range of morphologies, behaviors, and life styles. The
higher-level phylogeny of arthropods is also well-established, with strong scientific consensus
down to the order level in most cases; thus, there is a “correct” phylogeny to compare against.
The purpose of the activity is to formalize knowledge of arthropod diversity, and use that
knowledge to practice building a phylogeny by putting concepts about evolution into action.

Phylogenetics and Arthropod Diversity Lesson Plan

Phylogenetics and Arthropod Diversity Character Matrix Sheet

Phylogenetics and Arthropod Diversity Presentation


Selective Forces

The primary goal of this activity is to get kids engaged and get them a chance to see how populations change over time, as well as how environments drive populational changes. The students will play the role of a predator to moths living on the bark of trees. These moths have to major phenotypes a white much lighter coloration and a darker one. This is a historical example of the peppered moth. Where the lighter coloration was the dominant phenotype living primarily on like colored barked trees. However, with increasingly poor air quality with the coming of the industrial revolution this stained and darkened the bark of the trees and killed off many light-colored lichens. There then was a large switch in phenotype proportions towards the favor of darker melanistic moths, due to a selective pressure caused by predation due to the lack of camouflage.


Selective Forces

Energy Meets Biology

Over a three year period, we developed and implemented a module consisting of numerous lessons.

This module aims at integrating basic themes of biology – photosynthesis, metabolism, foraging, thermoregulation, sustainable food webs, coloration and migration – with the underlying importance of energy.

Wildlife Migrations - Energetic Causes and Consequences
This lesson focuses on the biological and ecological drivers of wildlife migrations and the role migratory species play in transferring energy and nutrients between disparate ecosystems. The students begin by studying humpback whale movements around the northern Pacific Ocean. Then, they will measure out the distance traveled by five other migratory species, and they will eventually map out the migration of a species that travels in or through their own state. The collective activities strive to foster respect for this biological phenomenon and the species that engage in it while also allowing the students to hone their observational, analytical, geographical, and mathematical skills.

Download Migrations Lesson

Optimal Performance Temperatures
This lesson is designed to show the importance of temperature on performance. To do this, we place bullfrogs at three different temperatures (cold, room temp, and warm) and then test their performance (jumping ability). This gives students hands on experience with science and demonstrates the need for organisms to actively thermoregulate.

Download Optimal Performance Lesson

Ocean Fisheries and Sustainability - Energetic Inputs and Energy Removal
This lesson talks about how fisheries remove energy from marine ecosystem. It focuses on how many fisheries also accidentally remove other animals and cause damage to marine habitats from their fishing gear. This is a fun, hands on lesson in which students get to learn about different fishing methods and design their own gear!

Download Fisheries Lesson

Optimal Foraging- Costs & Benefits

Students act as hungry animals during the Optimal Foraging Lesson to learn the trade-offs that animals face when hunting for food. Through multiple rounds of scavenger hunts, students must gather points and avoid predators to survive. The placements of low-point foods in the open and high-point foods under the guard of predators help students quickly understand the decisions that hungry animals face in the wild.

Download Optimal Foraging Lesson

Form, Function, & Food
Students learn about how the shapes of things relate to their use by the study of bird beaks. Students perform interactive games, study specimens, do creative brainstorming and formulate hypotheses about what birds eat based on their appearance. Through this process, they gain an understanding of how form and function relate.

Download Form and Function Lesson

Download Form and Function Powerpoint

Animal Coloration
Students will ask questions that have intrigued biologists since before Darwin: are all animals colorful? Why are some animals colorful?  After an interactive presentation with high-quality images of colorful animals the students will test if coloration can affect temperature regulation using infrared thermometer guns and animal models.

Download Animal coloration Lesson

Download Animal Coloration Powerpoint

Life History Strategies
The way animals allocate nutrients depend on many factors: age, sex, season, availability of resources and type of resources required. Acquisition and allocation of these nutrients dictate if individuals and species can survive and reproduce. Students will learn how nutrient requirements vary at different stages of an organism’s life history and how animals allocate energy to different needs (ex: juvenile growth vs. adult reproduction).

Download Life Histories Lesson

Students begin the lesson by working with solar-powered cars to get familiar with the energetic output of the sun. Next, students generate hypotheses about the light sources that allow plants to photosynthesize at the highest rate, then test these hypotheses with actual Elodea plants, lights, and CO2 bubble output. Finally, students piece together historical and scientific information to better understand the key concepts of photosynthesis.

Download Photosynthesis Lesson

Carbon Budget and Storage
Are all materials equal in carbon? This lesson begins by setting afire different soils and materials to show that some things have more energy than others. Then students test different soils to see which soils contain the most carbon. This lesson formally introduces the carbon cycle to students and lets them test energy in other materials.

Download carbon budget and storage lesson

Ocean Acidification and Marine Connectivity
How do we protect marine life? In this lesson students are engaged by live marine invertebrates and by a video showing how coral is being destroyed across the globe. Then students learn what affects coral and how to protect marine environments through a simulation.

Download Ocean Acidification & Marine Connectivity Lesson

Download Map

How do animals interact with each other and are these interactions ever dually beneficial? Students will learn about the oldest farmers on the planet: ants! They first see how ants farm fungus and how this relationship is beneficial for both the ants and the fungus. Then other aspects of mutualism are discovered and the lesson ends with the students coming up with creative mutualisms of their own.

Download Mutualism Lesson

Resource Distribution and Predator-Prey Dynamics
What factors how animals decide where to live? In this lesson the students see how temperature and the absence/presence of predators affects an animal’s preference for habitat. The students see a live demonstration of tadpole shrimp and brine shrimp interacting just like they would in nature. Overall, this lesson demonstrates trade-offs that all animals have to deal with.

Download Resource Distribution and Predator-Prey Dynamics

Bio Batteries
Can you power a light bulb with a fruit? In this lesson, students are introduced to basic plant physiology and how a battery works. They will discover first hand how a battery is similar to fruits or other living materials and will be able to see how strong of batteries fruits and vegetables are. Lastly, we include a reference to NCIS and CSI to show how television is not always realistic…

Download Bio Batteries Lesson

Foraging Strategies
Is it easier to hunt in groups or by yourself? What are the limitations to collective foraging? In this lesson students humbly experience how group foraging can be better – but at the same time how there is a trade-off. The lesson then evolves into students deciding when organisms should forage collectively or independently.

Download Foraging Strategies Lesson

Download Foraging Powerpoint

As you are reading this, different parts of your brain are active and inactive. In this lesson students are treated as neurologists who first must compare different animal brains and then determine what each brain specializes in whether it is sight, smelling, etc. Then students learn about techniques for seeing what areas of the brain are active during activities. This lesson is excellent for introducing basic brain science to your students.

Brain Lesson

Brain Powerpoint

Water Quality
How do you know when water is clean and safe to drink? This lesson allows students to collect data on water from different sources, allowing them to hypothesize on the source of water as well as its cleanliness. The students will also see a model of a watershed to help them understand how water moves through its environment what it can pick up along the way.

Download Water Quality Lesson

Marine Food Webs
This lesson explores how energy moves through organisms in a marine ecosystem. From Plankton to Orcas, students will observe the energy demands of different organisms and discover the impact that they have on the ecosystem as a whole. In addition, human fisheries are simulated to demonstrate the effect that humans can have on these fragile food webs.

Download Marine Food webs Lesson

Download Marine Food Webs Powerpoint

Additional Lessons

These are additional STEM lessons that have been developed using the 5E model that our mentors have developed through the years.

Where does all the stuff go? A compost experiment to introduce the concept of decomposition.
This is a semester long decomposition lesson plan that is broken up into two separate sessions. This plan
address biological and environmental concepts and terminology. Students are going to be able to bring
in some of their own food scraps or clean garbage from home and watch it decompose throughout the
semester. The big idea here is to teach students about decomposition in a fun lab environment using
some of their own materials from home.

Download Decomposition Lesson

Food Microbiology and Chemistry
Fermentation has been used as a method of preserving food, imparting certain flavors, and used in celebrations and cultural traditions.   Fermentation is the process in which microbes, such as yeast, break down sugar for energy and produce CO2, ethanol, and other byproducts that impart flavor, texture, and carbonation to beverages and food. This lesson plan will introduce foods that are the result of fermentation. It will establish the role that yeast plays in a variety of foods by first characterizing the traits of these foods and then by explaining how the yeast is responsible for those said traits. The students will then complete lab activities in which they measure the effects yeast has on foods and contrast them to abiotic substitutes of CO2 from baking powder and CO2 cartridges.

Download Food Microbiology and Chemistry Lesson Plan

Virus Spread in population
This lesson illustrates how a virus can spread and be sustained in a population.

Virus spread in population


Sounds In Nature
Animals use sound for a variety of reasons, and we are exposed to some of these sounds on a daily basis. The first part of this lesson will get students thinking about the different reasons sound is used, and will introduce them to some of the sounds they can hear even in urban areas. If there is not a good location near the school to listen for animal sounds, then the teacher should have some sound clips or videos of local fauna producing sound to show in class. Students will learn about sound waves, how animals use sounds, and how anthropogenic sound can affect animals, which is the focus of the second part of the lesson. After learning about behavioral changes and masking affects related to anthropogenic sound, students will get to observe these effects by exposing goldfish to different kinds of sound and observing how the goldfish reacts. Students will then get to present their experiments to the rest of the class.

Download Sounds in Nature Lesson

Pollination Game
Students will be playing a game acting as a pollinator. They will then explore flowers and the benefits each receive in these ecological relationships. Finally they will elaborate these ideas and design their own flowers to attract novel pollinators.

Download Pollination Game Lesson Plan_

Download Pollination Game PPT

After the Quake: Seismology in Action
Seismology is a branch of geology concerned with the characterization of earthquakes and the mitigation of associated damage. Students will learn about two important types of seismic waves and how to make a simple seismograph. They will then work in groups to interpret seismograms and find the epicenter, or origin, of an earthquake. Further discussion will determine if surrounding cities are at risk for a tsunami.  The lesson will conclude with a discussion on how we can protect ourselves from natural disasters.

Seismology lesson plan

You Are What You Eat!
The prevalence of obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents within the past 30 years. Unfortunately, this population is suffering from similar health consequences that are typically linked to adults who engage in poor dietary behaviors. Therefore, it is imperative to inform youth of the detrimental effects of excess weight gain caused by sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits. This lesson plan will introduce students to the metabolic and cardiovascular consequences of diets that are high in fat and teach them how to identify foods with nutritional value.

You Are What You Eat!

Introduction to Social Psychology
This lesson introduces psychology methods and concepts through a classic social psychology experiment: Group Shift. Students will watch a short video to show them how we don’t always recognize the way we perceive our thoughts and actions. The discussion will then examine how scientists can study thoughts, actions, and feelings to better understand how human societies work. In particular, students will learn about the ways in which groups of people together act differently than each individual member of the group would act alone.

Social Psychology

Our Drinking Water
This lesson plan was developed to introduce the students to the scarcity of drinking water and possible solutions by which this can be addressed. This will build on previous knowledge of the water cycle and introduce students to the concept of distillation. Students will be introduced to large-scale water purification methods such as desalination and consider their drawbacks and benefits.

Our Drinking Water

Race To Displace: Sonaran Desert Edition
This lesson  was adapted from Hopwood et al. (2013) to conform to a 5E lesson structure and for the local biome of the Sonaran Desert. There is some controversy around the invasive and native species distinction. Never the less this distinction can be useful for learning about ecological interactions. This lesson provides students an opportunity to explore the success and failure of various plants in the surrounding Sonaran Desert as well as the effects of human management. Additionally, through use of a game of chance students are provided experience working with, analyzing, and adjusting models.

Hopwood, J. L., Flowers, S. K., Seidler, K. J., & Hopwood, E. L. (2013). Race to Displace: A Game to Model the Effects of Invasive Species on Plant Communities. The American Biology Teacher, 75(3), 194-201.

Race to Displace Sonaran Desert Edition Lesson

Printable Copy of All Game Components

Astrobioloy: Mission Brio

Astrobiology is the study of life in the universe. Though it is only within the past center] century or so that the discipline has matured in to a robust science, figures like Aristarcus and Giordano Bruno have imagined that the stars in the night star could be suns in their own right, warming and brightening the planets of creatures far away. In this activity, students will get a taste of the kinds of questions that astrobiologists ask, and what we look for when searching for life in distant places by performing a mini NASA mission of their own

Mission Brio Lesson

Mission Brio Presentation

Lights and Flames

Introduce the idea that light exists at different wavelengths which correspond to different energies. Introduce the visible EM spectrum and how perceived colors relate to wavelength and energy.  Explore the concept that adding energy to different substances causes them to give off light of specific energies, and hence colors. Explain that light reflects and absorbs different wavelengths based on the properties of the object the light is interacting with. Use diffraction lenses to explore how white light and colors are actually composed of many different wavelength colors.

 Lights and Flames Lesson Plan


Race to Renewables

This first goal of this lesson is to explain to students what climate change is and how it impacts our planet. The second is to help students understand what renewable energy is and how it can be used to offset climate change.


Race to Renewables Lesson Plan

Our Material is Open Source – Please Use!

All of the GPSE materials – modules, lessons, and activities – are designed so educators can implement them at their school or institution. Please feel free to use and alter these materials to fit your class’s needs and specific curriculum. Although you do not need to contact GPSE to use these materials, we would greatly appreciate a brief email to let us known whenever you do. Furthermore, we would love your feedback about the materials. Please let us know what worked in your classroom and how we might improve our activities and lessons.