ALEX Lesson Plan


What if I Had Bat Ears? A STEM Challenge

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Carol McLaughlin
System: Hoover City
School: Greystone Elementary School
Author:Amanda Walker
System: Hoover City
School: Bluff Park Elementary School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35842


What if I Had Bat Ears? A STEM Challenge


After reading, What if You Had Animal Ears? by Sandra Markle, students will plan, design, and create bat-like ears from various materials for a STEM challenge. Students will test their models and redesign them to improve the effectiveness of their models to increase their own ability to hear by mimicking the external parts of a bat's ear. The students will measure and collect data from tests and compare results between the design and the redesign. This lesson can be completed in two 45 minute sessions or one 90 minute session. 

This lesson plan was created in partnership with the Birmingham Zoo. 

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 1
5 ) Design a solution to a human problem by using materials to imitate how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs (e.g., outerwear imitating animal furs for insulation, gear mimicking tree bark or shells for protection).*

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
L4.3: Organisms interact and are interdependent in various ways, including providing food and shelter to one another. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs are met. Some interactions are beneficial; others are detrimental to the organism and other organisms.

NAEP Statement::
L4.4: When the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce; others die or move to new locations.

NAEP Statement::
L4.7: Different kinds of organisms have characteristics that enable them to survive in different environments. Individuals of the same kind differ in their characteristics, and sometimes the differences give individuals an advantage in surviving and reproducing.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Crosscutting Concepts: Structure and Function
Disciplinary Core Idea: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Use given materials to design a device that imitates how plants and/or animals survive, grow and/or meet their needs.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • materials
  • design
  • solution
  • human problem
  • imitate
  • external parts
  • survive
  • needs
  • insulation
  • mimicry
  • camouflage
  • protection
  • ask
  • plan
  • imagine
  • create
  • improve
Students know:
  • How plants use their external parts to survive, grow and meet their needs.
  • How animals use their external parts to survive, grow and meet their needs.
  • People can imitate how plants and animals survive and grow to help us solve a human problem.
Students are able to:
  • Design a device that attempts to solve a human problem.
  • Use materials to imitate external structures of plants and animals.
Students understand that:
  • The shape and stability of structures of natural and designed objects are related to their function.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Organisms, STC
Wild Feet, ETA/hand2mind

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.1.5- Match an environmental situation with an appropriate human action (e.g., wearing a jacket when it is cold; animals growing a thick coat during the winter; wearing protective gear like a turtle has a shell).

SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 2
2 ) Collect and evaluate data to determine appropriate uses of materials based on their properties (e.g., strength, flexibility, hardness, texture, absorbency).*

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
E4.6: Some Earth materials have properties either in their present form or after design and modification that make them useful in solving human problems and enhancing the quality of life, as in the case of materials used for building or fuels used for heating and transportation.

NAEP Statement::
P4.1: Objects and substances have properties. Weight (mass) and volume are properties that can be measured using appropriate tools.*

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect
Disciplinary Core Idea: Matter and Its Interactions
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Collect data about the properties of materials and evaluate the appropriate uses of materials based on those properties.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Evaluate
  • Data
  • Graphs
  • Properties
  • Purpose
  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Hardness
  • Texture
  • Absorbency
  • Collect
  • Appropriate
Students know:
  • Properties of materials (e.g., strength, flexibility, hardness, texture, absorbency) Different uses for the materials.
  • The relationship between properties of materials and some potential uses (metal is strong, paper is absorbent, etc.).
Students are able to:
  • Conduct simple tests to collect and display data about the physical properties of various materials.
  • Analyze data to identify and describe relationships between properties and their potential uses.
Students understand that:
  • Simple tests can be designed to gather evidence about the relationship between properties of materials and their intended uses.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Solids and Liquids, FOSS

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.2.2- Identify common materials and appropriate uses based on their physical properties (e.g., rubber bands stretch, sidewalks are hard, paper tears).

MA2019 (2019)
Grade: 2
20. Measure to determine how much longer one object is than another, expressing the length difference of the two objects using standard units of length.
Unpacked Content
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • select appropriate tools for measuring.
  • measure lengths of two objects.
  • determine how much longer one object is than another.
  • express the length differences for the two objects using centimeters, inches, meters, or yards.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Standard units of length
Students know:
  • strategies for comparing the length of objects.
  • standard units of length.
  • related tools.
Students are able to:
  • choose and accurately use appropriate measurement tools and units of measure.
  • explain and justify procedures for determining the difference between the lengths of two objects.
Students understand that:
  • comparisons of objects are determined using attributes that are measurable.
Diverse Learning Needs:
Essential Skills:
Learning Objectives:
M.2.20.1: Measure objects using standard units.
M.2.20.2: Record lengths with appropriate units.
M.2.20.3: Use subtraction within 20 to solve problems.
M.2.20.4: Compare length using non-standard units to determine which is longer.
M.2.20.5: Use vocabulary related to comparison of length.
Examples: longer, shorter, longest, shortest, and taller.

Prior Knowledge Skills:
  • Define more, less, length.
  • Use vocabulary related to length.
    Examples: longer, shorter.
  • Identify objects by length.
    Examples: shortest pencil, heaviest rock.
  • Sort objects according to measurable attributes.
  • Use comparative language (longer/shorter, taller/shorter) for the attributes of objects related to length.
  • Communicate long, tall, short.
  • Recognize the length attributes of objects (long/short, tall/short).
  • Recognize length as the measurement of something from end to end.
  • Understand different forms of measurement (inches, centimeters).
  • Understand ruler.
  • Match numerals to objects or drawings.
  • Identify numerals 0 to 20.
  • Count from 0 to 20.
  • Add and subtract numbers within 20 using objects, pictures and fingers.
  • Take a smaller set out of a larger set.
  • Combine two sets to make a larger set up to twenty.
  • Count items in a set up to twenty.
  • Establish one-to-one correspondence between numbers and objects.
  • Understand one less than a number 2 through 20.
  • Understand one more than a number 1 through 20.

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
M.AAS.2.19 Order three objects by length (long/longer/longest; short/shorter/shortest).

Local/National Standards:

New Generation Science Standards K-2-ETS Engineering Standards


Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.


Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.


Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.

Primary Learning Objective(s):

By the end of the lesson, students will:

  • determine the best materials to assemble a model of the external part of a bat's ear to improve their own hearing.  
  • plan, create a model and conduct a test of the model's effectiveness.  
    • measure to determine how much longer one distance is than another.  

  • conduct a simple experiment before and after the use of the model and collect data. 
  • ask questions, make observations, and gather information about the parts of a bat's ear to suggest a solution that may help people who experience a loss of hearing.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Students will apply success skills: critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving.

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

61 to 90 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

  • 1 Copy of book: What if You Had Animal Ears? by Sandra Markle
  • projector or device to display Examples of bat ears 
  • paper (construction, card, or plain), glue sticks, tape (scotch or masking), paper plates (8-inch and 12-inch, foil, craft sticks, pipe cleaners)
  • baseball caps (from home-optional)
  • How Can I Have Bat Ears? Design Page
  • Bat Ear Design Quiz
  • ruler, yardstick, and/or measuring tape to measure a distance.

Technology Resources Needed:

  • Projector or device to display examples of bat ears
  • computer
  • device (tape recorder, radio) with volume control 



  • Teachers need to have a copy of the book, the examples of bat ears, and materials (listed above) for the activity. The teacher will also need a copy of How Can I Have Bat Ears? Design page and Bat Ear Design Quiz for each student. (Note that the Quiz has 2 copies per page so you only need to run half the number for your class.)
  • Be sure to tell students the designs must be by or around ears, not in their ears. 
  • If students are to bring baseball caps to attach ear models to then the teacher will need to ask them to bring these prior to the lesson.


  • Students should be able to accurately use a ruler, yardstick, and measuring tape to measure a distance.
  • Students should be able to compare two numbers and know the difference between them.

This lesson can be completed in a one 90 minute session or two 45 minute sessions. 


1. Read What If You Had Animal Ears? by Sandra Markle. Discuss how each ear is designed and how it helps the animal survive. 

2. The teacher will display Examples of Bat Ears via projector or another device. The class will discuss what the bat ears have in common and why the ear designs help bats hear so well.

3. The students will look at a partner's ear. What part of our ears helps us hear? (the curvy shapes on our ears) Why would a bat's ear be better at hearing than ours?



4. The teacher will explain the STEM challenge: How can you create bat ears from the available materials that will improve your hearing?

5. The teacher will distribute How Can I Have Bat Ears? Design Page and explain the task sheet. 

  • Remind students that the bat ear models created are to go around the ear, not in the ear. (If you are allowing students to build on to baseball caps, remind them they have this option.)

6. Have students examine and feel materials before designing bat ear models. Students need to think about properties of each material and how it will help with the design or challenge. 

7. As students work on bat ear designs, the teacher will have one student up at a time to test human hearing (control test). Refer to the How Can I Have Bat Ears? Design Page for guidance.  

  • Control Test: To test the students' human ears, use a device with volume control and some type of audio sound. With the volume on the lowest audible sound, ask the student, "How far away could you hear the sound or music?"

8. Once all students have collected the control data, the students will design/create bat ears with the provided materials. 

9. Instruct the students to follow the directions on the How Can I Have Bat Ears? Design Page to create model bat ears.

  • "Now, design a pair of ears from the materials that are similar to a bat’s ears.  Can you improve your hearing?
  • Draw a picture of the bat ears you will design and label the materials used.
  • Ask the students "Why do you think these will work? How is this design like a real bat’s ears?"
  • Create model bat ears using the illustrated design.

9. Once the models are complete, the students will test the bat ear designs by completing another hearing test and comparing data.  

  • Bat Ear Test 1: To test the students' human ears, use a device with volume control and some type of audio sound. With the volume on the lowest audible sound, ask the student, 
    • "How far away could you hear the sound or music?"
    • What was the difference in length between the control test and this test? 
  • The students will compare data from the Bat Ear Test 1 to the Control Test. Did this design improve their hearing ability? 

11. Students will redesign the bat ear models to improve their ability to hear using bat ears and write about changes needed to improve the designs using the How Can I Have Bat Ears? Design Page. 

12. Have students make adjustments to the bat ear designs and conduct one last Bat Ears Test 2 following the previous steps.  Students should compare results to determine if the improvements were successful.



13. In pairs, have students turn and talk to discuss the bat ear design models using the following questions/topics.

  • What worked, what didn't work on the designs? 
  • How did they improve the designs to hear better?  
  • Why is the bat's ear design important for them to survive, grow and meet their needs?

14. In a whole group discussion pose the question, "How can we design a solution to help people who may experience a loss of hearing to meet their needs?"

Provide feedback throughout the discussion to include key vocabulary and terms.

15. Display the bat ear models in the hallway for other classrooms to observe.


Assessment Strategies


  • Informal: Observe students during the design process. The teacher will watch to see if students are applying structures and features of bat ears to paper designs. The teacher will observe student choices of materials in design to build ears to determine the effectiveness of the model.
  • Informal: Observe students' discussion "How can we design a solution to help people who may experience a loss of hearing to meet their needs?" Can the students provide suggestions based on the bat ear models?
  • Formal: The teacher will assess students' work on the planning sheet to check for correct measurement of distance and comparison of the data collection.
  • Formal: Students will complete the Bat Ear Design Quiz to analyze parts of the bat ears that help them to hear and survive.


Students can choose one of the other books in the What If You Had Animal _____? series and create a model to mimic the animal and find how this can solve a human problem. 


Students that struggle with the design phase can be placed in small groups with the teacher. The teacher can show the examples of bat ears and discuss different features of the bat ears. The small group can look at the materials and decide which materials would best mimic the bat's ears. The small group can work in pairs to create a model to test.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.