EQuIP Rubric for Lessons & Units: Science
Reviewer Name or ID: This review represents a synthesis of multiple reviews
Grade: Middle School
Lesson/Unit Title: Backyard Biodiversity, Food Webs, v2
Note: While this is not considered a longer lesson or unit, reviewers felt the saw evidence of some of the additional criteria for longer lessons or units, as well as
suggestions for improvement, so included those comments.
I. Alignment to the NGSS
The lesson or unit aligns with the conceptual shifts of the NGSS:
Specific evidence from materials and reviewers’ reasoning
A. Grade-appropriate elements of the science and
engineering practice(s), disciplinary core
idea(s), and crosscutting concept(s), work
together to support students in threedimensional learning to make sense of
phenomena and/or to design solutions to
i. Provides opportunities to develop and use
specific elements of the practice(s) to make
sense of phenomena and/or to design
solutions to problems.
ii. Provides opportunities to develop and use
specific elements of the disciplinary core
idea(s) to make sense of phenomena and/or
to design solutions to problems.
iii. Provides opportunities to develop and use
specific elements of the crosscutting
concept(s) to make sense of phenomena
and/or to design solutions to problems.
iv. The three dimensions work together to
support students to make sense of
phenomena and/or to design solutions to
Evidence of opportunities for students to develop and use elements of practices include:
 Students are asked to draw a food web of the ecosystem they observed, which is a
type of model. Limitations of the model are identified (3-5 grade band element).
Students have the opportunity to revise the model based on class discussions and
identifying elements of the model that may be missing or that would not show the
flow of energy into and out of the ecosystem. Students are then asked to predict
what would happen if one part of their food web changed (an increase or decrease in
a population within the model) which aligns with the element of the practice of
modeling: “Develop or modify a model—based on evidence – to match what happens
if a variable or component of a system is changed.” (SEP 2, NGSS Appendix F).
 Students are also asked to write an explanation on page 4. However, students are not
supporting a scientific explanation as described by the evidence statements.
ii. Evidence of opportunities for students to develop and use elements of DCIs include:
 Students begin by considering the interactions present in an ecosystem, they use the
information that they gather from brainstorming to create a food web to describe
the flow of energy. As they identify their gaps in the model they are allowed to
readdress their models and edit them based on a class discussion about the
disciplinary core idea.
 “Decomposers recycle nutrients from dead plant or animal matter back to the soil in
terrestrial environments or to the water in aquatic environments.” is addressed by
the second revision of the model.
 The component of the DCI “Food webs are models that demonstrate how matter and
energy is transferred between producers, consumers, and decomposers as the three
groups interact within an ecosystem” is mostly addressed by the first revision of the
 These components of the DCI are not addressed “Transfers of matter into and out of
the physical environment occur at every level” and “The atoms that make up the
organisms in an ecosystem are cycled repeatedly between the living and nonliving
parts of the ecosystem.”
iii. Evidence of opportunities for students to develop and use elements of CCCs include:
Version 2 – published September 2014
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Suggestions for improvement
Explanation should be switched to argument since
students are supporting their own claims
(predictions in this case) rather than a scientific
explanation (NGSS Evidence Statements).
Depending on students’ experience with
argumentation, the lesson may not include
enough details or supports use of this practice to
ensure students are able to successfully construct
an argument.
The term explanation should be removed and the
focus should be on using the model to make a
ii. It might be interesting to ask students to draw
separate food and energy pyramids, based on the
food web. They could then introduce the energy
loss at each level.
If the part of the DCI that addresses that the
atoms that make up organisms in an ecosystem
cycle is not included here, perhaps there could be
a note that it is not addressed and a suggestion for
when it could be addressed such as during a later
chemistry unit where students could recall their
food webs, then apply their knowledge of
chemistry to describe their food web in terms of
iii. The element of the CCC listed for energy states
that “energy flows through a natural system,” but
in the lesson energy is referred to as “cycling”
The crosscutting concept of energy and matter is present throughout the lesson.
Students do not discuss any of the DCI without also talking about the energy and the
transfer of the energy within the model. One example is when, on page 3, the
teacher go around the room and having students “explain what is happening in the
model. Show one example of a path that energy may follow”
 The addition of the CCC of Systems and System Models – which is addressed during
the classroom conversation about systems – strengthens the unit because it allows
student to discuss how one component of the model can be viewed individually and
what the component’s role is within a given system and if that systems parameters
changed, what would the impact be on a system as it is defined.
 The CCC element “The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a
designed or natural system” is explored when students create and revise their food
web in revisions 1 and 2.
iv. The three dimensions identified in this lesson of: cycling of matter and flow of energy in
ecosystems, modeling, and the interactions across systems work together throughout
the lesson and lay a foundation to build to the PE that was identified: MS-LS2-3.
A unit or longer lesson will also:
which is incorrect. Revising this will make the
lesson more accurate and tie this CCC in better.
Specific evidence from materials and reviewers’ reasoning
Suggestions for improvement
B. Lessons fit together coherently targeting a set of
performance expectations.
i. Each lesson links to previous lessons and provides
a need to engage in the current lesson.
ii. The lessons help students develop proficiency on
a targeted set of performance expectations.
This lesson ties directly to the data collection from backyard biodiversity
and builds on that experience.
ii. The lesson does help students build toward MS-LS2-3 as students have
opportunities to use and develop each dimension associated with this
performance expectation.
C. Where appropriate, disciplinary core ideas from
different disciplines are used together to explain
There is mention of physical science when the teacher mentions “energy is
never created or destroyed.”
Explore the physical science DCIs that describe conservation of
matter, as this lesson could support growth toward that PE.
It would be a more coherent lesson sequence if samples of
student-completed assessments, with guidance for
identifying gaps in understanding, were provided for what
students did before this lesson (at the end of part one of
Backyard Biodiversity) and at the end of this lesson.
ii. This lesson targets a different, though related, PE than the
prior lesson. It would be helpful to have a unit plan that
connects these more clearly (so that the coherence is easier
to see) and describes the various PEs and which lessons use
each component. This would also show how the PEs are
bundled across lessons and how this creates an opportunity
for a richer learning experience. For example, seeing how this
DCI, which was listed in part one, connects to this lesson
would be helpful: Disruptions to any physical or biological
component of an ecosystem can lead to shifts in all its
The lesson could be improved by having instruction that would
elicit statements from students about energy, how it is
transferred, stored, etc. (e.g., chemical energy that is stored in
molecular bonds and it is never created or destroyed). If students
identify that it cannot be created or destroyed and that it is held
as chemical energy in molecular bonds, then introduce the
lesson in this context. By taking the opportunity to engage
students in a discussion of what they already know, the lesson
may be stronger, because they will identify other connections
without being told about them.
While this isn’t necessary, giving students the opportunity to
identify links to the conservation of energy and matter is key to
moving towards the identified DCI within the targeted PE.
D. Where appropriate, crosscutting concepts are used
in the explanation of phenomena from a variety of
Students are asked to connect the flow of energy and cycling of matter to
the rock cycle or water cycle from a previous course or their life experience.
This could be helpful to get students to see that the CCC of energy and
matter is not only in life science but also is in other science disciplines.
E. Provides grade-appropriate connection(s) to the
Common Core State Standards in Mathematics
and/or English Language Arts & Literacy in
History/Social Studies, Science and Technical
When students are communicating their predictions with classmates they:
Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent
descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use
appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
Students need structures to help them communicate clearly.
Provide norms of collaboration, discourse structures, or
examples of high quality descriptions.
This lesson would be supported by incorporating learning
opportunities aligned with: Compare and contrast the
information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or
multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the
same topic. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.9)
Depending on when the unit takes place within the middle school
grade span the following standard would be appropriate: Engage
effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in
groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics,
texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their
own clearly. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.1)
If the lesson or unit is not closely aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards, it may not be appropriate to move on to the second and third categories. Professional judgment should be used when
weighing the individual criterion. For example, a lesson without crosscutting concepts explicitly called out may be easier to revise than one without appropriate disciplinary core ideas; such a difference may
determine whether reviewers believe the lesson merits continued evaluation or not.
II. Instructional Supports
The lesson or unit supports instruction and learning for all students:
Specific evidence from materials and reviewers’ reasoning
Suggestions for improvement
A. Engages students in authentic and meaningful scenarios
that reflect the practice of science and engineering as
experienced in the real world and that provide students
with a purpose (e.g., making sense of phenomena
and/or designing solutions to problems).
i. The context, including phenomena, questions, or
problems, motivates students to engage in threedimensional learning.
ii. Provides students with relevant phenomena (either
firsthand experiences or through representations) to
make sense of and/or relevant problems to solve.
iii. Engages students in multiple practices that work
together with disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting
concepts to support students in making sense of
i.– ii. Create an interesting scenario or identify a video for
students to watch that shows various organisms
consuming food and a time lapse of plants growing.
Allow them to generate questions about the video
and how the different food sources are related. These
could be different organisms from their own food
web, but very engaging. This could lead in to the
discussion about energy flow.
The context of using a local ecosystem will make this content relevant to
student experiences. Additionally, the lesson as it is written allows the
teacher to make some decisions about what the ecosystem will be when
the lesson has the students brainstorm “How do living things interact with
each other?” By allowing the teacher or students to define an ecosystem,
the lesson allows for students to identify meaningful scenarios and pulls
together, with the questioning and guidance of the teacher, “Encourage
students to consider some of the living things they observed in their local
ecosystem, and how they relate to one another.”
ii. Students identify some of the organisms in their local ecosystem. Using
their own ecosystem observations creates more relevance than a
traditional, generalized food web. And by identifying the local ecosystem,
students can contribute first-hand how an organism behaves in the
ecosystem and what its role is. In the third part of the lesson when
This lesson may be strengthened by providing
students with guidance around engagement and
questioning that aligns with the DCI in this unit. What
types of questions should students be
phenomena and/or designing solutions to problems.
iv. Provides opportunities for students to connect their
explanation of a phenomenon and/or their design
solution to a problem to their own experience.
v. When engineering performance expectations are
included, they are used along with disciplinary core
ideas from physical, life, or earth and space sciences.
B. Develops deeper understanding of the practices,
disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts by
identifying and building on students’ prior knowledge.
C. Uses scientifically accurate and grade-appropriate
scientific information, phenomena, and representations
to support students’ three-dimensional learning.
students make a prediction about possible impacts on an ecosystem,
some students might be familiar with the increase or decrease of an
organism on the local ecosystem because of first-hand experience and
could possibly draw from this experience to make sense of the
iii. Students do engage in other practices – in the gallery walk they are
presenting arguments based on evidence and potentially asking questions
to clarify evidence and the premise of an argument or to challenge the
premise – that are secondary to the main practice of developing and using
models to describe and predict more abstract phenomena. The practices
work together as students use their models to help them predict and in
their arguments.
iv. Students are using their experience of describing an ecosystem as the
basis for constructing their models.
v. N/A
This lesson links to the prior lesson and explicitly describes how to elicit
student ideas about how organisms interact. Students engage in a brainstorm
around the question “How do living things interact with each other?” The
students then discuss as a class and make a list of living things within an
ecosystem they may be familiar with and then they are asked to categorize or
create a list of the different trophic levels. This initial brainstorm helps access,
identify, and build on prior knowledge and identify any misconceptions that
students may have.
Energy is referred to as “cycling” through an ecosystem in the lesson, which is
incorrect. Energy flows through an ecosystem in a path that has an input and
an output. It enters the ecosystem as light energy from the Sun and a lot of it
exits as heat (heat is not a usable form of energy for organisms and is not
“recycled”– this is why we need a continuous input of energy from the sun).
Students are asked to create definitions of a system or a cycle. However,
these two words are not interchangeable, because there are distinct
definitions for both of them.
It is implied that students will engage in arguing from
evidence during the numerous conversations and the
gallery walk described. By describing specific
discourse structures or adding a peer critique cycle,
this could become an explicit opportunity to engage in
this practice. “Respectfully provide and receive
critiques about one’s explanations, procedures,
models and questions by citing relevant evidence and
posing and responding to questions that elicit
pertinent elaboration and detail.”
Identify common misconceptions that students may bring
about this topic from their other experience and create a
probe or other formative assessment specific to these
misconceptions that will help the teacher identify areas for
The unit may be improved by facilitating a discussion in
which students make sense of one ecosystem that has been
given to them. If students can evaluate the impact on the
energy transfer in one pre-identified ecosystem, students
will possibly make more sense/have a deeper understanding
of a local ecosystem if they are unfamiliar with how
ecosystems operate (this may help students that are
struggling with the lesson or that are new to the area).
Additionally this shows the ability to transfer knowledge.
The last part of the unit could be improved by allowing
students to revise their predictions based on evidence or
data that they could gather or research to revise and
support a prediction. By having students research the
various impacts that changes in population have they have a
stronger argument for the possible impact that the change
in population may have.
The lesson needs to be revised to state that energy flows
through systems – this will also help tie in the listed CCC
better. Ask them what the inputs and outputs of energy are
in their system. (Sunlight is the input and energy released in
waste or as heat are the outputs.)
Students should not be asked to create a definition for a
system or a cycle to reduce the chance they will conflate the
two. Students should also come back to revise their working
definition at the end of lesson.
The question is asked: Where does the energy go? The suggested answer
does not explicitly address energy. The return of nutrients to the soil is not
the exit path of energy in the ecosystem. Energy flow and matter cycling are
two different processes in an environment that both need to be addressed.
D. Provides opportunities for students to express, clarify,
justify, interpret, and represent their ideas and respond
to peer and teacher feedback orally and/or in written
form as appropriate to support student’s threedimensional learning.
Students have the opportunity to present their ideas (and ask each other
questions, provide clarification and justify their ideas) in the form of whole
class discussions, think-pair-shares, gallery walks, and drawing their models
(food web).
E. Provides guidance for teachers to support differentiated
instruction in the classroom so that every student’s
needs are addressed by including:
i. Suggestions for how to connect instruction to the
students' home, neighborhood, community and/or
culture as appropriate.
ii. Appropriate reading, writing, listening, and/or
speaking alternatives (e.g., translations, picture
support, graphic organizers) for students who are
English language learners, have special needs, or
read well below the grade level.
iii. Suggested extra support (e.g., phenomena,
representations, tasks) for students who are
struggling to meet the performance expectations.
iv. Extensions for students with high interest or who
have already met the performance expectations to
develop deeper understanding of the practices,
disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts.
The ecosystem under study (from the first part of the Backyard
Biodiversity) is of their own community.
ii. A word bank is suggested. Students can use post-it notes and moveable
index cards to work with and redefine their model as they are engaged in
more discussion.
iii. Not evident.
iv. A possible extension is given in which students can research real examples
of human caused impacts on biodiversity in ecosystems, then predict how
the changes may impact the system as a whole by examining the energy
transfers, and create an action plan to mitigate damage to their
Discuss with students how at every trophic level, organisms
use some of the energy they obtained from their food to
carry out the necessary processes of life (growth,
reproduction, respiration, etc.). A lot of the energy is
released into the surroundings at every level. Ask students
if they can think of ways that energy is released out into the
ecosystem at every level.
Adding a peer critique cycle as described above would
further support this activity and formative assessment.
ii.–iii. Add a text/article or video to the lesson in part one to
have the students start with an ecosystem that they
can all reference when discussing their local
ecosystem. The video may be an alternative to a text
and it could be accompanied by a note
taking/scientific notebook task that would ask
students to identify certain components in an
For those who struggle with their own ecosystem,
provide another ecosystem example for them to have
another attempt at creating the model. It would be
neat to have clear descriptions of what the organisms
eat and photographs of the organisms.
Provide extra support to model an ecosystem that has
actually had a decrease/increase in one component of
an ecosystem and trace the energy transfers in that
modeled ecosystem.
Although there is an extension for this lesson, it is
underdeveloped and is more of a standard research
project where students gather information and do not
engage in the practices of modeling. Instead, students
could consider what would happen if the limitations of
the model (the limitations/constraints of the system)
were changed and how the energy transfer would
A unit or longer lesson will also:
Specific evidence from materials and reviewers’ reasoning
Suggestions for improvement
F. Provides guidance for teachers throughout the unit for how
lessons build on each other to support students developing
deeper understanding of the practices, disciplinary core ideas, and
crosscutting concepts over the course of the unit.
Within the unit, students are engaged in developing a deeper
understanding of the three dimensions by defining terms together and
using the terms and the class brainstorms to make sense of the
phenomena of the transfer of energy and the cycling of matter. First they
work as a class, then they work individually with opportunities to refine
Provide students with some guiding questions or
hooks while they are engaged in the gallery walk so
that some misconceptions may be identified.
their model with peer review and teacher guidance. Then they share their
models with the class and can engage in discussion around the transfer of
energy and cycling of matter throughout an ecosystem. The lessons build
towards students being able to predict impacts to an ecosystem based on
the information that they have.
G. Provides supports to help students engage in the practices as
needed and gradually adjusts supports over time so that students
are increasingly responsible for making sense of phenomena
and/or designing solutions to problems.
Students model ecosystems and then, through some discussion and
feedback, are allowed to refine/revise their models providing support for
the practice of modeling. This support is not necessarily adjusted, which is
reasonable given the length of the lesson.
III. Monitoring Student Progress
The lesson or unit supports monitoring student progress:
Specific evidence from materials and reviewers’ reasoning
A. Elicits direct, observable evidence of threedimensional learning by students using practices
with core ideas and crosscutting concepts to make
sense of phenomena and/or to design solutions.
B. Formative assessments of three-dimensional
learning are embedded throughout the instruction.
Teacher questions and opportunities to refine models throughout the
lesson elicit direct, observable evidence of three dimensional learning.
Students not only create models but also have to identify the transfer
of energy and the components of the system.
There is a mention of a formative assessment on page three after the
third part of the lesson: “Students’ understanding will be assessed by
their answers to questions, both during class discussions, as well as
one-on-one. In addition, students’ prior knowledge will be assessed
by the first draft of their food web model. Teachers should look for
misconceptions to address in students’ work, and focus the
instruction and revisions phase on correcting these gaps in
C. Includes aligned rubrics and scoring guidelines that
provide guidance for interpreting student
performance along the three dimensions to
support teachers in (a) planning instruction and (b)
providing ongoing feedback to students.
D. Assessing student proficiency using methods,
vocabulary, representations, and examples that are
accessible and unbiased for all students.
There are other places in the lesson where teacher questions and
student models can serve as formative assessments. At least some of
these formative assessment opportunities are three dimensional, for
example when students are asked to create a model (SEP) that
describes energy flows (CCC) in the context of an ecosystem (DCI).
No evidence
Student ecosystems under study come from their own community.
Depending on the ecosystem that students are able to observe, it may
be difficult to identify a diverse array of organisms to include in a food
web (e.g., urban parks/playgrounds). Also, during different seasons it
Suggestions for improvement
See comment about formative assessment above in IIB.
The formative assessments in this unit could be added in the
beginning as a pre-assessment to get a base of where students are in
their learning and proficiency around ecosystems and energy
The formative assessment could also be strengthened by including
examples of formative assessments that would survey the whole
class or small groups and not just rely on individual student
feedback. Possibly have students question each other (turn and talk)
or the use of dry erase boards when first exploring the components
of a local ecosystem before they model (decomposers, producers,
Provide sample student work with commentary as an example of an
acceptable model and argument.
An aligned rubric and scoring guide to use when evaluating students’
revised models and their justifications for revised models as well as
their justification for a prediction and how the energy transfers
would be helpful. Rubrics should elicit evidence for the justification
and what changes happened to the models after feedback was given.
It might be worthwhile to provide some examples of organisms in
urban environments that can be incorporated into a food web.
may be easier or more difficult to gather evidence.
A unit or longer lesson will also:
Specific evidence from materials and reviewers’ reasoning
Suggestions for improvement
E. Includes pre-, formative, summative, and selfassessment measures that assess threedimensional learning.
See III.B for evidence of formative assessments. The listed summative
assessment consists of student work samples from the lesson – their
final models and arguments. The lesson does not include pre- or selfassessment, but since it is a relatively short lesson, this may be
It would be helpful to have a pre-assessment to evaluate where
students are, what misconceptions and what understanding they
have as they begin the lesson.
F. Provides multiple opportunities for students to
demonstrate performance of practices connected
with their understanding of disciplinary core ideas
and crosscutting concepts and receive feedback.
Multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate modeling
connected to their understanding of the DCIs and CCCs.
More formal opportunities for teachers to evaluate students’ ability
to engage in the practices would be helpful. See formative
assessment suggestion in IIB.
Overall Summary Comments:

EQuIP Backyard Biodiversity Food Web Combined