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Critter Museum
Administration Procedures

Grade 5-8 Performance Task
Contributed by: The RAND Institute (RAND)
Spring 1993 Research Pilot


Students will act as directors of a new science museum where they have decided to set up a display of animals without backbones that are found in the area. To organize their display, they need to sort and classify a collection of animals and provide some information about how the animals have adapted to the area.

This task assesses students' abilities to classify and sort by categories.

This task is designed to take students approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Life science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

The characteristics of organisms

Performance Expectations:

  • organizing and representing data
  • applying scientific principles to develop explanations

National Science Education Standards:

4 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades K-4
1.4 Use data to construct a reasonable explanation. This aspect of the standard emphasizes the studentsí thinking as they use data to formulate explanations. Even at the earliest grade levels, students should learn what constitutes evidence and judge the merits or strength of the data and information that will be used to make explanations. After students propose an explanation, they will appeal to the knowledge and evidence they obtained to support their explanations. Students should check their explanations against scientific knowledge, experiences, and observations of others.

1.8 Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry. Mathematics is essential to asking and answering questions about the natural world. Mathematics can be used to ask questions; to gather, organize, and present data; and to structure convincing explanations.

4 C LS 1: The characteristics of organisms: Grades K-4
1.2 Each plant or animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction. For example, humans have distinct body structures for walking, holding, seeing, and talking.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

DAP1: Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them.

PS2: Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts.

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Students will be working individually during this exercise.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.

Materials for "Critter Museum":

At each station students should have:

  • Two bags, one marked with a red dot, and the other with a blue dot
  • Hand lens
  • 12 invertebrate "animals"
  • paper towel
  • markers

Advance Preparation:



  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.





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