Learning Resource Type

Lesson Plan

Imaginary Species Biome Activity

Subject Area





This lesson is meant to be used as a culminating project after students have learned about different biomes. Students will start out by separating different plants into their respective biomes based on their characteristics. Then students will create a species that is adapted to survive in an assigned biome.  

This lesson was created as part of the 2016 NASA STEM Standards of Practice Project, a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 3


    Construct an argument from evidence to explain the likelihood of an organism’s ability to survive when compared to the resources in a certain habitat (e.g., freshwater organisms survive well, less well, or not at all in saltwater; desert organisms survive well, less well, or not at all in woodlands).

    Unpacked Content



    • Construct
    • Argument
    • Evidence
    • Likelihood
    • Organism
    • Survive
    • Resources
    • Habitat
    • Explanations
    • Groups
    • Populations
    • Communities
    • Niche
    • Illustrate
    • Models
    • System
    • Depend (on each other)
    • Categorize
    • Basic needs (examples: sunlight, air, fresh water, & soil)
    • Produced materials (examples: food, fuel, shelter)
    • Nonmaterial (examples: safety, instinct, nature-learned behaviors)


    Students know:
    • Some kinds of organisms survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all in a certain habitat.
    • If an environment fully meets the needs of an organism, that organism can survive well within that environment.
    • If an environment partially meets the needs of an organism, that organism can survive less well (lower survival rate, increased sickliness, shorter lifespan) than organisms whose needs are met within that environment.
    • If an environment does not meet the needs of that organism, that organism cannot survive within that environment.
    • Characteristics of a given environment (Examples: soft earth, trees, and shrubs, seasonal flowering plants).
    • Characteristics of a given organism (plants with long, sharp, leaves; rabbit coloration) .
    • Needs of a given organism (shelter from predators, food, water).
    • Characteristics of organisms that might affect survival.
    • How and what features of the habitat meet or do not meet the needs of each of the organisms.
    • Being a part of a group helps animals obtain food, defend themselves, and cope with changes.
    • Members of groups may serve different functions and different groups may vary dramatically in size.
    • Habitats and organisms make up a system in which the parts depend upon each other.
    • Resources and can categorize them as basic materials, produced materials or nonmaterials as resources in various habitats.


    Students are able to:
    • Make a claim supported by evidence about an organism's likelihood of survival in a given habitat.
    • Use reasoning to construct an argument.
    • Evaluate and connect relevant and appropriate evidence to support a claim.
    • Construct explanations that forming groups helps some organisms survive.
    • Articulate a statement describing evidence necessary to support the explanation that forming groups helps some organisms survive.
    • Create a model that illustrates how organisms and habitats make up a system in which the parts depend on each other.
    • Describe relationships between components of the model.
    • Categorize resources in various habitats as basic materials, produced material, or nonmaterial.
    • Organize data from the categorization to reveal patterns that suggest relationships.


    Students understand that:
    • Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified and used to explain change.
    • Evidence suggests a causal relationship within the system between the characteristics of a habitat and the survival of organisms within it.
    • The cause and effect relationship between being part of a group and being more successful in obtaining food, defending themselves, and coping with change.
    • That the relationship between organisms and their habitats is a system of related parts that make up a whole in which the individual parts depend on each other.
    • Resources in various habitats have different structures that are related to their function.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Engaging in Argument from Evidence; Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions; Developing and Using Models; Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

    Crosscutting Concepts

    Cause and Effect; Systems and System Models; Structure and Function

    Primary Learning Objectives

    The students will apply their knowledge of biomes to argue why an imaginary species could survive in a specific biome based on the resources present in that biome.


    Opening Activity: (Approx. 15 minutes)

    Begin this lesson by having students visit the NASA Earth Observatory website activity, "To Plant or Not to Plant?" This activity can be completed individually or in groups of 2-4. (If individual devices are not available, the teacher can lead this activity as a discussion.) 

    Bill Botanist is the character in this activity and he needs help planting specimens in the appropriate biome. When students click on, "Enter Mission," (with a shovel icon), they will be taken to a new page where they can click on each plant, read the description, and select the appropriate biome. Students will receive immediate feedback on their answer choice. 

    Groups that finish early can click on "Great Graph Match" on the top right of the page, to review biomes' average temperature and precipitation.

    Final Project: (Approx. 30-45 minutes)

    Once it appears that most groups have finished, you will explain the project. You can either assign a biome to each group or allow your students to choose. 

    Once biomes have been chosen/assigned, students will need the "Imaginary Species Planning Guide," which is merely a tool to guide their thinking. (Their species can be either a plant or an animal.)

    After they have planned out the various characteristics of their species, demonstrating that they have a clear knowledge of what traits would be necessary to thrive in their assigned biome, students will illustrate a member of their species. Their illustration should clearly show each of the characteristics listed in their planning guide. These characteristics should also be labeled. 

    Once time is up, have one person from each group share their species and describe the various characteristics. The attached rubric can be used by the teacher to grade all of the necessary components. 

    Assessment Strategies

    This activity in itself is an assessment, so a rubric is provided to assure that students have included all aspects required in this project. 


    Students who need extra support should be placed in groups with teammates sensitive to the needs of that student.

    The teacher may need to more closely supervise groups that contain students who are struggling with the concept.

    Approximate Duration

    Total Duration

    61 to 90 Minutes

    Background and Preparation


    Students should already have a solid foundation on biomes- their climate, including average precipitation, examples of other plant and animal species that thrive, and a general idea of where they are found in the world. 

    Materials and Resources

    Materials and Resources

    Technology Resources Needed

    • An electronic device, (individually or in groups of 2-4; if devices are not available to students this can be done whole group using a digital projector) 
    • Website/Activity: "To Plant or Not to Plant"