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National Center for Science Education


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College


Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, English Language Arts

Resource Types

  • Video, 13 minutes, 30 seconds
  • Lesson Plan
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Video, 5 minutes, CC, Subtitles
  • Worksheet
  • Presentation Slides

Regional Focus



Google Sheets, Google Slides, PDF, YouTube Video

The Road to Extinction

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  • In this lesson, students learn about the relationships between extinction, evolution, and biodiversity by investigating previous mass extinction events, learning about the current mass extinction, and participating in many interactive activities.
  • Through discussions, videos, research, and readings, students examine the causes of extinction events, how they impact biodiversity, how species have adapted to human pressures, and what can be done to limit the loss of biodiversity on Earth today.
Teaching Tips


  • The lesson plan includes discussion questions, learning outcomes, background knowledge, a list of materials, and an in-depth, step-by-step guide to each activity.
  • The reading comprehension tasks, vocabulary cards, critical thinking exercises, and group work will get students using their communication and critical thinking skills.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This lesson requires 4 to 6 50-minute lessons to complete, but some sections could be used as stand-alone activities.
  • You will need to create a free account to access the lesson plan and materials.
  • All accompanying materials are only available through Google drive.
  • There may be ads before the videos.
  • Before starting the lesson, students should have some knowledge of extinct species and understand the fossil record, genetic variability, natural selection, and speciation.


  • Extension activities are available at the end of the lesson plan for students interested in furthering their knowledge of extinction.
  • Images in some of the student documents will use a lot of ink if printed. Alternatively, you can print one set of images per group or project them for the class.
  • Have students consider the role that anthropogenic climate change is playing in biodiversity loss and species extinctions.
  • To provide more background knowledge about extinction, use this video about the fossil record and extinction or this video on the sixth mass extinction.
  • History classes can use portions of this lesson to connect to geographic distributions of human civilizations of the past and present, human-caused extinctions or near-extinctions in recent history (e.g., the passenger pigeon, dodo bird, bison, Atlantic cod, rhinos, etc), or to the differing ability of previous civilizations to colonize and change the planet.
Scientist Notes
This resource is a guide for teachers that includes standards, core ideas, a lesson set, and teacher resources, all of which discuss the connection between extinction, evolution, biodiversity, and human impacts. The information is well-sourced and researched and would be a great addition to a class discussing different needs to address climate change. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • English Language Arts
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically. The content, organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
      • SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with peers on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
    • Writing: History, Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • WHST.11-12.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the specific task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.
  • Science
    • LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
      • HS-LS4-2. Construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution primarily results from four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the heritable genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for limited resources, and (4) the proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in the environment.
      • HS-LS4-4. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations.
      • HS-LS4-5. Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species.
      • HS-LS4-6. Create or revise a simulation to test a solution to mitigate adverse impacts of human activity on biodiversity.
  • Related Resources


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