Middle School: OpenSciEd Unit 8.5: Why Are Living Things Different From One Another?

Listings > Middle School: OpenSciEd Unit 8.5: Why Are Living Things Different From One Another?

OpenSciEd is a nonprofit organization that brings together educators, philanthropic organizations, curriculum developers, and professional development providers to improve science education through the development and implementation of high-quality, freely available science instructional materials. While this work has begun at the middle school level with Grades 6 through 8, the goal of OpenSciEd is to ensure that all educators, from elementary to high school, have access to a free, coherent, rigorous, research-based set of instructional materials that will support all students in meeting the vision for science literacy described in A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards.

Rating: Example of High Quality NGSS Design

Awarded the NGSS Design Badge

Science Discipline: Life Science

Length: Unit

Year Reviewed: 2021

This unit on genetics starts out with students noticing and wondering about photos of two cattle, one of whom has significantly more muscle than the other. The students then observe photos of other animals with similar differences in musculature: dogs, fish, rabbits, and mice. After developing initial models for the possible causes of these differences in musculature, students explore a collection of photos showing a range of visible differences.

In the first lesson set, students use videos, photos, data sets, and readings to investigate what causes an animal to get extra-big muscles. Students figure out how muscles typically develop as a result of environmental factors such as exercise and diet. Then, students work with cattle pedigrees, including data about chromosomes and proteins, to figure out genetic factors that influence the heavily muscled phenotype and explore selective breeding in cattle. In the second lesson set, students use what they’ve learned from explaining cattle musculature to help them explain other trait variations they’ve seen. They investigate plant reproduction, including selective breeding and asexual reproduction (in plants and other organisms) and other examples of traits that are influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Students figure out that environmental and genetic factors together play a role in the differences we see among living things.

Link to Materials 

The following link will direct you to OpenSciEd’s Unit 8.5 Unit Overview Page: OpenSciEd Unit 8.5: Why Are Living Things Different From One Another?

NGSS Design Badge

Awarded:Jan 13, 2022

Awarded To: OpenSciEd Unit 8.5: Why Are Living Things Different From One Another?


The NGSS Design Badge is awarded only to the version of this unit that was reviewed. If any modifications are made to this unit, the revised version cannot be promoted as having earned the badge.

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