Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Inquiring Minds Want To Know (Middle School Science)

Melinda Dukes
Washington County Schools


Inquiring minds participate in an inquiry-based lesson plan which has them construct an experiment in a scientifically valid way that will shed light on the controversy of nature vs nurture. This is lesson three of the unit, Twin Traits.


The student knows that the study of the events that led scientists to discoveries can provide information about the inquiry process and its effects.


This is lesson three of three for the unit, Twin Traits

Day 7-9
-Student journals
-Rubric for Scientific Experiment (see Associated File)
-Twin Traits: Experiment Design using the Scientific Method
-Decide which activities you will use to review with students.
-Journal Entries handout (Optional-See Extensions)
-Exit Slips (Optional-See Extensions)

Day 10
-Summative Assessment (see Extensions)

**If integrating this unit with the language arts unit, Jacob Have I Loved, then use the handout, Daily Integration Ideas (See Extensions).


This is lesson three of three for the unit, Twin Traits

Day 7
1. Familiarize yourself with the phases of experimentation found in this day’s procedures. (Note- Some school districts have blocked video clips and streaming video. If this is the case with your school district, consider downloading and viewing the videos from your home computer.)
2. Download and print the handout and the Rubric for the Scientific Experiment. Make one copy for each student. A transparency may be helpful to display while going over the information.
3. Decide which review activities you will use with your students. See Extensions and Weblinks for additional information.
4. Download, print and make copies of the handout, Twin Traits: Experiment Design.
5. ESE students will need modifications. Examples include topic lists for the project, constant redirection, hard copies of instructions, etc. Respond to the needs of your students accordingly.
6. Consider using exit slips as another opportunity to formatively assess students. Exit slips are available from the unit's attached files. (See Extensions.)
7. Download and determine how (or if) you will use the Journal Entries handout.

Days 8 and 9
1. Make copies of the rubric to use when groups are presenting.
2. Be prepared to review information not covered by students’ presentations that will be needed for the summative assessment.
3. Consider using exit slips as another opportunity to formatively assess students. Exit slips are available from the unit's attached files. (See Extensions.)
4. Download and determine how (or if) you will use the Journal Entries handout.

Day 10
1. Download and print the summative assessment for this unit. Make one copy per student. See Extensions for more information.

**If integrating this unit, then use the Daily Integration suggestions (See Extensions).


Day 7
1. Direct students back to the original essential question, “Which is a more important factor in how your personality develops – nature or nurture?” Then have a review of concepts using one of the activities mentioned in Extensions and Weblinks.

2. Ask the students, “How do you think a scientist would go about answering this question?” Students should indicate that scientists would conduct an experiment. Explain to students that scientists generally use an inquiry process to answer this type of question. (Write on the board the terms Initiation Phase, Exploration Phase, Experimentation Phase, and Presentation Phase.) Continue the explanation by saying that scientists begin with an Initiation Phase where they begin a unique occurrence or need and begin asking questions such as this one. Then they start exploring and researching just like we have been doing with our activities to learn about our traits and our reading. This is the Exploration Phase. When they feel they know enough about their subject, they begin the Experimentation Phase by designing an experiment to test what they think is going on or their hypothesis. After they finish their experiment they enter the Presentation Phase where they share their results with other people. (Video clips and additional information about the phases of inquiry can be obtained in Weblinks.)

3. Explain to students that we are going to enter the Experimentation Phase of our inquiry. Ask students if they can think of a way to construct an experiment in a scientifically valid way that will shed light on the controversy they have been discussing.

4. Guide the discussion toward twin studies or the study of pairs of identical twins that have been raised apart.

5. Ask students to explain why identical twins raised apart would be ideal subjects for an experiment. Make sure students understand that identical twins have exactly the same genetic makeup, so any inherited traits, including all physical traits, would be exactly the same. But if raised separately, the twins would grow up with different environmental influences.

6. Divide the class into groups, and assign each group to come up with a design for an experiment that would cast light on the nature versus nurture controversy. All experimental designs should involve a pair of identical twins raised apart from each other.

7. Before groups meet go over the scientific method with the class, explaining to students the requirements for a scientifically valid experiment. See the attached handout, Twin Traits: Experiment Design using the Scientific Method. (If students need a refresher course in the vocabulary used on the handout, utilize the vocabulary strategies found in Weblinks. Possible problematic vocabulary: control, valid, variable, replicated, and concise.)

8. Share with the class the Rubric for the Scientific Experiment (see Extensions).

9. Allow time for groups to design their experiments.

10. Rotate around the room observing for proper experiment design which means it follows the scientific method described and is formed around a question that could accurately test nature versus nurture. Also, ask the students questions about the inquiry process to ensure that they understand why and how scientists conduct experiments.

Days 8 and 9

1. Have each group complete and then present its experimental design to the class.

2. As students present, formatively assess their experiment and understanding using the Rubric For Experimental Design (see extensions).

3. Invite class members to critique each experiment with regard to the validity of its design and use of the scientific method.

4. As each group presents, select opportunities to review the content that will be assessed in the unit.

5. After each group has presented, review any material that will be assessed that did not come up naturally in the experiment designs.

6. When all groups have presented, readdress the essential question. Have students look back in their journals about what they originally thought. Have them write in their journals about how their thoughts have changed or expanded now that they have learned more. Allow time for the students to Think-Pair-Share.

7. Remind students about the Summative Assessment coming the next day. Make sure to provide an opportunity for students to ask any remaining questions.

Day 10

1. Explain to students that they have completed the mini-unit on how human personality develops. Now they are going to take a final assessment to show that they understand the concepts.

2. Give each student a copy of the Summative Assessment (see Extensions).

3. Before students begin the test, stress to them that this is a post-test with the purpose of finding out what they have learned. It is a “High Stakes” assessment.

4. Allow students time to take the assessment.

Day 11

1. Go over the summative assessment with the class and review any content that students had difficulty mastering. Students not meeting mastery should be retaught and reassessed.


Formative assessment is ongoing each day. Within each day’s procedural steps, formative assessment criteria is included. Please see procedures for more information.

The Rubric for Scientific Experiment (see Associated File) will be used to formativley assess students' ability to explore events that lead scientists to discoveries through the use of the inquiry process and its possible effects. Criteria for correctness is included on the rubric.

Summative Assessment Answer Key (see Extensions) will be used to assess student's summative assessment.


1. This unit integrates with the Beacon Learning Center units, Jacob Have I Loved and Announcing World War II. Jacob Have I Loved is a language arts unit in which Sara Louise, a twin, struggles with the differences between her and her twin sister, Caroline. Is it nature or nurture that has made them the way they are?

Additionally, another unit, Announcing World War II, was written to help students understand the time period of the novel. If they can understand the world around the characters, then they will gain further insight into the character's minds. Students hear radio broadcasts from the time period and create their own.

Integrated units provide multiple opportunities for students to gain insight into complex issues. By researching the nature vs nurture controversy, students gain a deeper understanding of the science content and of the characters in the novel. Consider teaching this unit in conjunction with your history and language arts counterparts. You will see increased interest on behalf of your students as they make connections among all three subjects.

2. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page. Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, Downloadable Files. This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

3. A word wall may be beneficial in helping students remember complex vocabulary. Create vocabulary word posters by writing the vocabulary down on construction paper and posting on blank wall space. Posters will act as visual cues which may aid student understanding.

4. A daily review has been built into the lesson. Instead of the usual Q and A, explore different review options. Options include Academic Baseball, puzzlemakers or worksheet generators that can be used as discussion starters.

Web Links

Use this link to obtain video clips and information about the different phases of inquiry.
Phases of Inquiry

Use this link to investigate different vocabulary strategies that can be used with students.
Vocabulary Strategies

Use this link to find additional review ideas.
Review Ideas

Attached Files

Twin Traits: Experiment Design using the Scientific Method     File Extension: pdf

Rubric for Experimental Design     File Extension: pdf

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.