BHP Team
Washington, USA

In December’s Big Question article, veteran BHP educator Bridgette O’Connor takes on the Unit 5 Driving Question, “How and why do theories evolve?” She shares her approach to teaching Unit 5, including strategies for anticipating questions from parents who might not be comfortable with the topic of how our understanding of evolution has “evolved.” Bridgette identifies the activities she finds most engaging for students, the ones that will help them understand the DQ as they delve into the unit.

Several veteran BHP teachers have shared their strategies for taking on Unit 5 and provide their best practices for approaching the unit. After reading their suggestions, head over to the BHP Teacher Community to continue the conversation. We’re excited to have you contribute to the conversation!

Bridgette’s blog is right on point. I agree that the How Closely Are We Related? activity is a huge eye opener for students because it shows just how similar we are to other living species. I also can’t pass up the Mini-Thresholds of Life video (students love to see David Christian as a cartoon). This video leads us into the Mini-Thresholds of Life foldable project, where we ask students to speculate about what the next mini-threshold might be. For the first couple of years, I could not help but think that while Unit 5 is full of many awesome topics, it was a real downer because we kept talking about all of the mass extinctions that have taken place and how many species have vanished from the planet throughout the course of its history. Last year, we ended Unit 5 by looking at the five previous mass extinctions and asking the question, “Are humans responsible for the beginning of a sixth mass extinction?” This culminated with us watching the documentary Racing Extinction, and I asked students to think about how they could be part of the solution to this problem. On various levels—from local to global—it was awesome to hear 11-year-olds talk about what they wanted to do to be a much “friendlier” neighbor to all of the other species that share this planet with us.

Zachary Cain, BHP Teacher, Grade 6
Illinois, USA


I really like the “Life and Purpose” article in Unit 5. It helps establish the criteria for determining what can be classified as life and is a great article for 3CR.

Brian Moore, BHP Teacher, Grade 9
Connecticut, USA


Brian—me too! That article is a fave! I like to compare the “list” of life criteria in this article to the “list” developed in the Crash Course video. The two are very similar, but enough different that students get a sense of how scientists and professionals approach complex topics with different perspectives. It also nicely illustrates how divergent thinking is necessary because all perspectives get examined as they feed into an eventually accepted theory. “How Closely Are We Related?” is very good. Quick and easy, and very illuminating for kids to see that life is much more “same” than “different” in the big picture.

Donnetta Elsasser, BHP Teacher, middle school
Washington, USA


I have to admit that I quite like the Making Craters activity. Apart from the fact that some of the students get a little over enthusiastic and want to take it to the next level, it is a fun, practical activity that really engages students. If you want to extend the activity even further, you can get students to research crater impacts and present their findings to the class.

Charles Rushworth, BHP Teacher, Year 9
Sydney, Australia


I agree with the comments already added. I always include the Mini-Thresholds of Life activity and think that the inclusion of Evolution and Life timeline is a very important aha moment for many students, when it comes to scale. I actually think this is one of my favorite driving questions and one I am going to focus on unpacking with my class as a part of my teaching of claim testing.

Also, the Making Craters activity does look good but very messy. Thanks for highlighting this one for me again, Charles Rushworth.

Hayden Brown, BHP Teacher
Western Australia, Australia

Header image: Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash, CC0.

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