Natural Selection


Natural Selection introduces students to the idea of “survival of the fittest” and the Theory of Evolution. Students will discover facts about heredity and genetics and how certain organisms adapt over time in order to survive. They will also learn about examples of animals that have experienced natural selection, such as giraffes.

The “Options for Lesson” section lists a number of additional ideas to incorporate into the lesson if you have time or want to extend it. One idea is to assign each student an example of an animal who has adapted to its environment to research and later present to the class.

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What our Natural Selection lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Natural Selection explores the reasons that certain animals become extinct while others adapt over time to survive. Students will learn about the concept of “survival of the fittest” and evolution. They will also discover how heredity and genetics play a part in an organism’s ability to survive. This lesson is for students in 5th grade and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. The supplies you need for the lesson activity are colored pencils, scratch paper, and regular paper.

Options for Lesson

The classroom procedure page contains an “Options for Lesson” section that lists several ideas for additional activities or segments that you could incorporate into the lesson. A few of these ideas relate specifically to the activity portion of the lesson. Students could work alone or with a small group to create their pictures, instead of in pairs. You could also hold a vote in which students vote for which pictures are the best and most creative. After students complete their images, you could create a booklet to display in the class. Another option is to assign a different example of natural selection to each student to research and later present to the class. You could also invite a zoologist or similar specialist to speak to the class and answer questions they have that relate to the topic. One more idea is to combine this lesson with one on the Theory of Evolution.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page provides an extra paragraph of information to help guide the lesson and remind you what to focus on. It reminds you to help students understand how the idea of survival of the fittest relates to natural selection. The blank lines are available for you to write out any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.


Survival of the Fittest

The Natural Selection lesson plan contains a total of three pages of content. The lesson begins by asking students what the phrase “survival of the fittest” means and what it relates to. It presents a scenario in which the students imagine they are walking in a desert with a friend and running low on water. Up ahead, they discover a single bottle of water. Both people are becoming dehydrated, but the student decides to give the bottle to their friend.

At that point, the friend is now more “fit” to survive the desert than the student. Obviously, this example is not one that would happen naturally (through processes in nature). However, the point is clear and this example helps students understand the concept of natural selection. Natural selection is a process in which the organisms with the necessary traits of survival are most likely to reproduce.

The Earth is billions of years old. Many living organisms have lived and died throughout time, some of which survived millions of years while others died out in a short time. Evolution is the process by which living organisms change and develop to adapt to their environment. All species on Earth have evolved in one way or another and will continue to do so in the future. If an organism cannot change with its environment, it will die.

Charles Darwin and Natural Selection

The first person to introduce the theory of evolution and natural selection was Charles Darwin. The change that takes place by the organism is at the heart of natural selection. Students will learn that organisms do not consciously change. Instead, the necessary changes occur naturally over a long period of time based on the organism’s needs. This idea of natural selection is the central concept of evolution.

Because of genetics, members of the same species do not have the same exact traits. That’s why every person looks different from every other person. Different species have variations of traits that allow them to have some kind of advantage over other species. A house fly, for instance, has wings that allow it to escape and fly away from danger. An ant, on the other hand, has limited options.

Organisms pass these traits on from parent to offspring, but not every trait. Those that give an organism a more favorable advantage are the ones that the offspring will likely receive. The more favorable traits an organism passes on, the more likely it is that that organism will be able to adapt and survive in its environment. The organisms that can adapt will have a better chance of survival because they are better “fit” for their environment.

The lesson offers an example to illustrate this point by asking students to imagine that the world becomes covered in water over the next million years. Those organisms that can adapt will be the ones that survive. These would include nearly all fish, certainly. However, what about squirrels and other land animals? It’s possible that the squirrel survives if it develops gills over that period of time. This adaptation would be due to natural selection.


The last page offers a list of examples of what natural selection could look like in various situations. In the first, birds prefer the taste of red bugs, so there will be fewer red bugs or more green bugs. The green bugs reproduce more green bugs, and eventually the red bugs die out.

In the next example, some giraffes have long necks and others have short necks. If the low-lying shrubs begin to die out, the giraffes with short necks will also die out after a few generations. Deer mice that migrated to the sand hills of Nebraska change from a dark brown to a light brown color. This adaptation made it easier for them to hide from predators in the sand.

Many insects become resistant to pesticides after a while, and their offspring are resistant as well. Some insects might become immune to a particular chemical in a matter of just a few months. Bacteria that have made people ill can become resistant to antibiotics. If those antibiotics no longer destroy the bacteria, people will remain sick unless doctors can develop new antibiotics.

The last example involves early humans. Early humans could survive due to their hand shape. They could throw a rock or spear at their prey, and they would then use that prey as food for their survival. There are many more examples of natural selection throughout the history of the Earth. In the end, the organisms that can adapt will survive.


The Natural Selection lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help students solidify their grasp of the material they learned throughout the lesson. You can refer to the classroom procedure guidelines to know when to hand out each worksheet.


With a partner, students will sketch an image of a “future human being” that has adapted to a change in the environment. They will need come up with and agree on what change occurred. They will then use the concept of natural selection to draw a human with new traits that will allow the person to live and survive. The worksheet provides a box that students can use to sketch a rough draft. You may also want to provide additional scratch paper. Students will draw their final copy on a clean sheet of paper. After the class finishes, students will present their work and explain their drawings.


The practice worksheet is divided into two sections. The first section requires students to fill in the blanks in 10 sentences. Students will use the terms provided in the word bank. For the next section, they will mark whether statements are true (T) or false (F). There are 10 statements total in this section.


For the homework assignment, students will read a few short passages. The first two passages have five questions for students to answer that relate to the information in the passage. The final passage asks students to imagine a world in which there are no automated modes of transportation and in which humans have to walk and can’t use animals to travel either. Students will then answer two questions about the changes that might occur with the human body and with the Earth overall.

Worksheet Answer Keys

If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


5th Grade, 6th Grade



State Educational Standards

LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.1, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.1.c, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.5, LB.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.7, LB.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.10

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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Natural Selection Lesson Plan

Great lesson plan, well structured, good quality material, students enjoyed using the material to learn.