Unit Overview

In Mosa Mack’s Evolution unit, students are led through a progression of three inquiry lessons that focus on three types of evidence that support the theory of evolution: fossils, anatomical structures, and embryology.

Lesson Overview

Medium 1sSolve: Common Ancestor Mystery + Vocabulary Mind Map

Students contextualize Evidence of Evolution vocabulary in a mind map before helping Mosa Mack solve the mystery showing that species that look very different, actually come from a common ancestor. By the end of The Solve, students discover evidence in the fossil record, embryology and comparative anatomy, supporting the idea that all species are related and share a common ancestor. (75 mins)

Medium 2m 640.jpgMake: Gather Your Own Evidence

Students work in stations to gather evidence to support the theory of evolution. Evidence involving fossils, embryos and limb anatomy will be compiled into a final “Evidence Journal” that will demonstrate an understanding of how species evolved from a common ancestor. (120 mins)

Medium 3eEngineer: Engineer a Device that Monitors Evolution

Students develop and design a device to prove that evolution is a continuous process that is still occurring. Students will create a model or technical diagram of their device in order to show how it could function and the type of scientific data it will collect in order to effectively monitor evolutionary changes. (150 mins)

Next Generations Science Standards

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.
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.

Science & Engineering Practices

  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Connections to Nature of Science
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
  • Scientific Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity

Cross Cutting Concepts

  • Connections to Nature of Science
  • Patterns
  • Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems

Inquiry Scale

  • Each lesson in the unit has an Inquiry Scale that provides directions on how to implement the lesson at the level that works best for you and your students.
  • “Level 1” is the most teacher-driven, and recommended for students in 4th-5th grades. “Level 4” is the most student-driven, and recommended for students in 7th-8th grades.
  • For differentiation within the same grade or class, use different inquiry levels for different groups of students who may require additional support or an extra challenge.

Common Misconceptions

  • In everyday language, the word “theory” means a “hunch” or “idea.” Students therefore tend to think the word “theory” has the same meaning in science. Encourage students throughout the unit to recognize that the word “theory” in science means something much different: in science, “theory” means a well-tested hypothesis that has lots of data to support it.
  • Students tend to think that species can “choose” to evolve in order to meet the needs of different environments. Emphasize that this is not possible. Evolution is not a process that occurs at the “individual” level, but rather at the level of the population. Evolution is a passive process driven by the combination of environmental changes and mutations. In conditions where an environmental change occurs (drought, volcanic eruption, new predator, disease in the population), those species with beneficial mutations that cause favorable traits survive and pass on these traits to their offspring. Those that do not have beneficial traits will die, thus creating a shift in the population, leading to a change in the species over time.
  • Students may think that evolution is a process that can occur quickly, even overnight. Emphasize once again that evolution is a process that occurs over many generations and is dependent upon beneficial mutations and the specific environment.


    • Evolution
    • Fossil Record
    • Embryology
    • Anatomy
    • Vertebrate

Content Expert

  • Mohamed Noor
    Professor of Biology Duke University


  • Powerpoints for Make and Design
  • Vocabulary Cards
  • Vocabulary Mind Map
  • Solve Student Handout
  • Make Student Handout
  • Design Student Handout

New: RocketLit Leveled Reading

* To give our users the most comprehensive science resource, Mosa Mack is piloting a partnership with RocketLit, a provider of leveled science articles.

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    How does a new species form? In this rigorous article, we look at famous examples (such as Darwin's Finches!) and explain a few different factors that can lead one population to separate and diverge into independent species that can no longer have offspring.

  • Evidence for Evolution: Analogous and Homologous Structures

    The fossil record provides a wealth of evidence for evolution, both in organisms who've evolved similar structures in the same environment and organisms who are genetically related that share similar traits. This article give a few examples of each and explains the difference between the two.