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Instructional Unit Samples - Science
I am very proud to present the teacher-authored instructional unit samples in Science. Each of these units represents the work of a team of Colorado educators to translate one curriculum overview sample into a full instructional unit with learning experiences, teacher and student resources, assessment ideas, and differentiation options. To learn more about the unit development process and the unique aspects of the Science units, please consider watching one or more of the instructional unit webinars.
Each of the units posted here was authored by a team of Colorado educators. As examples, they are intended to provide support (or conversation/creation starting points) for teachers, schools, and districts as they make their own local decisions around the best instructional plans and practices for all students.
You can also view the complete list of Science curriculum overview samples and use the instructional unit template to begin constructing your own Colorado Academic Standards-based units.
Science Content Specialist
Biology Unit Title: Population Ecology (Monte Vista School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on ecological interactions between populations of organisms and their environment. The unit describes biotic interactions, trophic levels and energy flow, cycles of matter, abiotic and biotic resources, and population and community dynamics. Beginning with ecosystem components, across the unit students will explore ecological concepts such as biotic and abiotic factors, biomes, niche, keystone species, communities, populations, ecosystems, and the biosphere. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to create a presentation for a local authority (county commissioner, city council, zoning board, etc.) to present an analysis of the impacts of the eradication of a top level consumer
Biology/Environmental Science Unit Title: Matter and Energy in an Ecosystem (Denver Public Schools, Mesa County School District, and Montrose County School District)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will focus on the relationship between the conservation of matter and energy, nutrient cycles, how matter and energy are cycled through an ecosystem, and how disruptions alter the functionality of ecosystems. The unit culminates in a performance assessment where students take the role of an Environmental Consultant asked to make a recommendation on land-use practices to a group of public stakeholders.
Chemistry Unit Title: Chemical Reactions (Cherry Creek School District, Harrison School District, The Colorado Education Initiative)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on chemical changes. The unit begins by differentiating between physical and chemical changes and then focuses on chemical equations as a means to represent, identify, and quantify a chemical reaction. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to investigate a reaction between zinc metal and HCl in order to identify the useful product, state the reaction type, and determine how much zinc would be required to make enough of this product.
Earth Science Unit Title: Earth's Changing Surface (Lake County School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on our restless planet. Beginning with plate tectonic theory, across the unit students will explore technological evidence/advances that have furthered knowledge of this theory, natural hazards associated with plate tectonics, and resources and landforms that result from tectonic forces. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to create a community proposal based on a specific role/perspective and present to a governing body for future planning of a geologically active area. They will need to consider potential hazards and implications of development based on technological evidence of plate tectonic theory.
Physical Science Unit Title: Forms and Transformations of Energy (Harrison School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on forms of energy and how those forms are transformed and conserved in a variety of situations. Beginning with the foundation of energy conservation, students explain and calculate how various types of energy (kinetic, potential, mechanical, thermal, chemical, nuclear, electrical, and radiant, etc.) are used in real life scenarios. They identify efficient forms of energy used to do work and recognize that the transformations involved conserve instead of “lose” energy. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to investigate ways top decrease energy consumption for their school and present a report to their local school board.
Physical Science Unit Title: Motion and Force (Lake County School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on students exploring the Laws of Motion. The unit describes Newton’s Laws of Motion, gravity, friction, momentum, and force. Beginning with a review of the Laws of Motion and then progressing through the concepts that unbalanced forces cause motion to change, an object can increase or decrease in acceleration impacting velocity, the relationship between force and friction, and objects traveling at the same velocity exemplify the direct relationship between inertia and momentum. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to identify and graph (motion) four skateboard stunts, including at least one law of motion with each stunt, and using all three laws within the four stunts.
Unit Title: Genetics and the Human Influence on Genes (Lake County School District)
Unit Description: This unit is focused on genetics and the transmission of traits. Beginning with using Punnett squares and pedigrees to predict possible offspring, the unit has students investigate Mendelian genetics, genetic engineering and modification, and the transmission and mutation of traits during reproduction. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to write an opinion/position paper for a local newspaper on one topic (GMOs, cloning, genetic counseling, etc.).
Unit Title: Matter Responds to Energy (Thompson School District)
Unit Description: Instructional Unit Description: This unit illustrates the interconnectedness of energy concepts throughout earth, life, and physical sciences which include matter changing into different states based on energy. Beginning with the different forms of energy, across the unit students investigate how energy transfers though chemical and physical changes to generate electricity, different sources of energy have their own unique impacts on the environment, and how force and motion are impacted by the energy of an object or substance. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to develop, construct and defend a hydroelectric power plant site.
Unit Title: Our Place in Space (Ellicott School District, Hanover School District, and Colorado Springs School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on exploring patterns of motion in our solar system as they relate to the positions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun. Students will be introduced to models of the solar system and how the movement/position of celestial objects effects tides, creates eclipses, day cycles, year cycles, seasons, and moon phases. The unit culminates in a presentation interpreting data about an imaginary planet/solar system and what solar system/planetary conditions might explain the given observations.
Unit Title: Transfer and Transformation of Energy (Colorado Springs School District, Ellicott School District, and Hanover School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on how energy is transformed and transferred across different systems. The types and nature of energy will be investigated as they relate to weather and weather patterns, available resources, and features found in energy waves. This unit culminates in a performance assessment that has students critically examining human activity with regard to harnessing energy.
Unit Title: Adaptations of Life Over Time (Ellicott School District and Hanover School District)
Unit Description: This unit begins with the introduction of Darwin’s scientific research based on his theory of evolution through natural selection. Students are then introduced to how natural selection occurs in an environment, how small changes results in the evolution of a species, and then transitions into evidence that supports the theory of evolution. The unit then shifts to discuss possible scenarios that can impact evolution and speciation and how humans are impacting the future of evolution. This unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to publish a book within a book series about how and why natural selection and adaptation occur within various environments.
Unit Title: Energy Transformations in Living Things (Ellicott School District and Hanover School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on energy transfer between photosynthesis and cellular respiration. It begins with a review of cellular organelles (vacuole, mitochondria, cell membrane, cell wall, chloroplasts, etc.). It then progresses into photosynthesis (using the chemical equation), cellular respiration, and their interconnectedness within the environment. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to create a formal presentation to NASA executives who are thinking about colonizing Mars.
Unit Title: Geologic Events through Time (Ellicott School District and Hanover School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on discovering the history of Earth by interpreting rock layers and their contents (e.g., fossils, composition of rocks). Students will explore how major events are used to divide history into eons, era, and periods, as well as how fossils are formed. This unit culminates in a performance assessment where students are paleontologists asked to investigate a geologic column and create a geologic time scale.
Unit Title: It’s All About You: From Cells to Organisms (Woodland Park School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on the structure and function from the cellular level to the organism within all living things including single-cell and multi-cell organisms. This unit describes homeostasis and interconnectedness of cellular organization to system functions. Beginning with cell theory, across the unit students investigate macromolecules, pro- and eukaryotic cells, active and passive transport, levels of organization, the structure and function of body systems, and the interconnectedness amongst systems. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to analyze the impacts of organ failure or disease on organ systems.
Unit Title: Mixtures and Substances (Lake County School District)
Unit Description: The focus of this unit is on properties of matter and investigating and analyzing mixtures, solutions, and substances. Beginning with filtration, purification, solubility, boiling point, density, magnetism, and physical size, across the unit students investigate how matter can be combined and identified based on these properties. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to explore the potential for a new mining site in their area.
Unit Title: Shake, Rattle, and Roll (Ellicott School District and Hanover School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on plate tectonics at the three types of plate boundaries (convergent, divergent, transform) and the various geologic events, including land formations that occur due to their interactions (earthquakes, trenches, mountains, volcanoes, etc.). It then progresses into the results of their interactions, and their impacts on communities. The unit culminates in a performance assessment where students will take the role of a worldwide news cast team member that is reporting on 2 events (volcanic eruption, earthquake, tsunami, etc.).
Unit Title: Building Blocks of Life (Colorado Springs School District, Ellicott School District, and Hanover School District)
Unit Description: The unit begins with the teaching of ways to measure mass, volume density, weight and gravity. Next the concepts of matter, atoms, molecules and the properties of matter are introduced. This will lead to the understanding of the states of matter and their molecular structures. The unit culminates in a performance assessment where students discuss the history of the periodic table and the modern day arrangement of the table which will include the concept of the elements and compounds.
Unit Title: Changing Environments (Colorado Springs School District, Ellicott School District, and Hanover School District)
Unit Description: This unit begins with an introduction of organisms and the flow of energy within an ecosystem. The unit then progresses to environmental changes such as constructive and destructive forces that affect the ecosystem, and the relationship between changes within the environment and how an organisms’ population will be altered. The unit will focus on the relationship between a changing environment and how the organisms’ population changes while attempting to achieve stability, and eventually equilibrium. The unit culminates in a performance assessment where the students are predicting how changes in an environment may (or may not) affect future populations within that environment.
Unit Title: Water, Water Everywhere (Colorado Springs School District)
Unit Description: This water unit focuses on its particle model (solid, liquid, gas), its unique properties, its quality and availability/usability in communities around the world, its distribution and circulation on earth, and its relationships among mass, weight, volume and density. Beginning with mass, density, and volume of water, across the unit students investigate state changes, temperature, cohesion, expansion, polarity, water cycle, and water quality indicators. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to create a product to document the journey of a water molecule.
Unit Title: Body Systems Dance (Greeley-Evans School District 6)
Unit Description: This unit is integrated with Dance, Physical Education and Science. It allows the educator and students to learn about and explore human body systems (e.g., Circulatory, Digestive, Muscular, etc.) through movement elements. Students will work in small groups to create movement that will symbolize the movements of selected body systems. The unit will culminate in a school wide field day where stations of student groups will explain and perform the workings of a human body system to participants.
Unit Title: Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources (Cheyenne Mountain School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on how humans, plants, and animals use renewable and non-renewable energy resources, and how the use of these resources impacts the environment both positively and negatively. The physical environment limits available resources, which dictate human use, decision-making, and activity. Beginning with the natural resources (renewable and nonrenewable), across the unit students investigate energy, info-graphics, resource availability and consumption, and the interconnectedness of humans and energy production and use. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to take the role of a city utility engineer and come up with a solution for coal depletion and present to the local city council.
Integrated Unit Title: Whose Land Is It Anyway? (Stanley British Primary School, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Brighton School District, and Platte Canyon School District)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will focus on the interdependence of organisms in their environments. Students will understand the cause and effect relationships of Colorado’s environmental systems by identifying, observing and analyzing patterns among biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) components of ecosystems. Across the unit’s 4-6 week duration, students will explore the diverse economic, social, civic, geographic and ecological factors that influence Colorado.
Unit Title: Solar System (Park County School District)
Unit Description: This unit introduces the components of the solar system, which include the earth, moon, and sun, and examines the relationship between them. It also focuses on how the revolution of the earth, in relation to the sun, impacts life on earth through predictable patterns such as seasons, moon phases, and sunrise and sunset. Beginning with the components of the solar system, across the unit students investigate the Earth, the moon, the sun, the difference between revolution and rotation, predictable patterns, and the seasons. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to take the role of a news reporter asked to report to their local community on potential changes that could be observed in Colorado if a meteor hit Earth.
Unit Title: Earth Materials and Rock Cycles (Holyoke School District and Julesburg School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on the factors that cause continual change of the Earth surface and the features that can change suddenly because of earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, floods, or slowly because of weathering and erosion. Some of Earth’s resources include minerals, rocks (sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic), and soil. The unit includes the rock cycle and how rocks transform due to the effects of changes in pressure and temperature. . Beginning with the layers of the Earth, across the unit students investigate physical features of the Earth’s surface, different types of rocks, components and the formation of soil, minerals, resources, and weathering. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to captures images of Colorado landscapes that document how the earth is continually changing (Glaciers, landslides, floods, earthquakes, river formation, holes in rocks, cliffs, canyons, rocky mountains, plains, sand dunes, etc.).
Unit Title: Weather and Seasons (Rocky Ford School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on the effects of weather and seasons with respect to organisms and their environment, including seasons, normal weather patterns, severe weather, and catastrophic events. Students will understand how survival is dependent upon changes in behavior and the environment. Beginning with tools to collect data on weather, across the unit students investigate weather and temperature, seasons, human and animal behavioral response to weather and seasons, and severe weather and catastrophic events. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to take the role of a weather forecaster and report on local weather within a given season.
Integrated Unit Title: Plants and Animals in Habitats/Lifelong Healthy Eating (Jefferson County Public Schools)
Unit Description: This unit explores structures and functions of organisms based on their environment. Students will begin to understand how structures and functions of an organism help it survive within its environment. Students will learn these concepts through exploring different organisms, habitats, and the foods organisms and humans eat to stay healthy. The unit concludes with students creating a comparison model that describes an organism and human habitat, its environment surroundings, and food choices that help it to survive.
Unit Title: Organisms and Offspring (Woodland Park School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on the offspring of organisms, variations and similarities within those offspring, and patterns of inheritance. Beginning with characteristics of living and nonliving things, across the unit students investigate seeds and plants, animals and offspring, characteristics of animals, and patterns of inheritance. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to reunite animals babies that have been separated from their parents based on patterns of inheritance.
Integrated Unit Title: Staying Alive (Jefferson County Public Schools)
Unit Description: This unit explores interaction and survival techniques of various organisms in our environment. Students will consider what would happen if a person or other organism did not receive one of its most basic needs such as water, food, or shelter. Through the examination of concepts such as decision making, choices, survival, characteristics, and resources students will also be able to make connections about healthy food choices in their own life. The unit concludes with students creating a playing card that describes a living organism, its environment, nutrients, and physical characteristics.
Unit Title: Characteristics and Properties of Organisms and Objects (Woodland Park School District)
Unit Description: This unit focuses on characteristics and properties of organisms and objects. Beginning with identifying characteristics/properties, across the unit students sort animals and objects based on attributes and characteristics. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to sort and categorize objects given to them in a box and have to explain their categories.
Integrated Unit Title: Moving & Grooving (Jefferson County Public Schools)
Unit Description: This unit explores variation in movement patterns in relation to one’s place in space. Students will demonstrate the concepts of motion using their bodies in a safe manner. Through the exploration of various animals, students will mimic their locomotion through body movement. The unit concludes with the students becoming a zoo animal and acting out its unique movement styles.
For content specific questions, please contact Joanna Bruno.