NGSS Instructional Resources for "Variation Is Essential: How Does Variation Within a Population Affect Survival of the Species?"

instructional Resources

This lesson is an introductory, hands-on, minds-on, lesson about biological evolution. It was designed to include the three-dimensions of the Framework for K-12 Science Education to align with the Next Generation Science Standards. In this lesson students will be engaged in several of the science and engineering practices (SEPs) and their thinking will be guided by questions and prompts using the crosscutting concepts (CCCs). You will notice that the prompts written into this lesson have the language of the CCC’s embedded within the prompt. This is intentional and critically important in making this lesson truly three-dimensional. The CCCs help to structure student thinking so that they focus on specific aspects of the phenomenon they are exploring which, in this case, is why biological variability is an important factor in the survival of a species. As a result of the instructional shifts of the NGSS, this lesson was designed to be student-focused with the teacher serving as a facilitator. The goal is for students to “figure it out” rather than just “learn about” the concept.


The NGSS Activities included in this Lesson Are:

  • Using patterns to identify different physical attributes that are measurable and that vary over the population
  • Measuring the length of fifty beans to the nearest millimeter, in order to see variation within the patterns.
  • Graphing and analyzing data of the beans grouped by length.
  • Exploring patterns of variation as possible important causes for the survival of species, and
  • Evaluating evidence about the causes and effects of variation.


The NGSS Performance Expectations covered in this lesson are: 

HS-LS4-2  Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

Construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution primarily results from four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the heritable genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for limited resources, and (4) the proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in the environment.

HS-LS4-4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations.


NGSS-related Resources for this Lesson​