Program Details:

Adaptation and Variation in Colorado mammals: A new classroom kit for 4th grade

We are working to develop a new "Classroom Kit" for 4th grade classrooms to learn about Biological evolution-variation and adaptation-through exploring the natural history of native Colorado mammals. Classroom Kits, as developed by the CU Museum of Natural History, are collections of materials and activities on a particular theme. They allow students to perform hands-on investigations of objects that they would normally never have access to at school and the materials get to stay with teachers permanently. This kit will feature: new hands-on outreach materials including real and cast mammal specimens, skins, feet, and skulls, tools for measuring and observing, and in-class activities specifically designed to address Colorado Academic Standards for 4th grade Life Science. We will emphasize an interdisciplinary, "STEAM" approach to learning by incorporating art activities and connecting scientific content to literacy through My Water Comes from the Rocky Mountains-a picture book designed for elementary school students with illustrations of the mammals we will highlight in the kit. The books compliment specimens in the kits by providing additional background for students and are a non-fiction resource for teachers to address literacy standards. We will develop 8 kits for Boulder Valley School District-working closely with their curriculum design staff and teachers to design, evaluate, and revise the kits-and we will then produce and distribute an additional 17 kits to rural Colorado schools.

In August of 2016, Dr. Alexandra Rose and Mr. James Hakala will acquire materials for the new classroom kits for investigating and learning about variation and adaptation in Colorado mammals. Simultaneously, we will develop lessons, assignments, classroom projects, and background materials based on the chosen materials. These lessons and projects will address Colorado Academic Standards that expect students to understand how adaptation and variation in organisms is tied to living and non-living components of environments, and how scientists investigate and interpret patterns in Biological evolution.

In October of 2016, we will distribute 8 kits to teams of teachers in two different schools within BVSD. At this time, we will provide a teacher workshop to explain the kits' contents, curricular materials, and background information.

In Spring 2017, we will contact the teachers who have used kits in their classrooms and solicit extensive feedback on how the kits worked for them. We will use this feedback to revise the kits.

In Summer 2017, after the original kits have been used, evaluated, and revised in collaboration with BVSD teachers, we will distribute 17 new kits to rural school districts. We will rely on our previously established relationships with teachers in schools from districts such as Mancos RE-6, Plainview RE-2, and Ellicot 22 in order to identify which schools would most benefit from our kits. These districts are some of the most poor and underserved in Colorado, with free and reduced lunch rates as high as 58%, 52%, and 69 % respectively.

This is a private program by request only, or for a specific audience or group and there is no fee to attend.


In Colorado

  • Boulder
  • Longmont

Program Partners

Supporting This Program

  • Alexandra Rose: Outreach and Education Coordinator Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research program
  • James Hakala: Senior Educator, CU Museum of Natural History
  • Mary Powell: University Hill Art Teacher
  • Samantha Messier: Boulder Valley School District Director of Science and Instructional Systems

Sponsoring Units

Arts & Sciences, College of

  • Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EBIO), Department of
  • Museum & Field Studies
  • Continuing Education, Division of

    • Office for Outreach and Engagement
    • Research Institutes & Centers

      • Arctic & Alpine Research (INSTAAR), Institute of

      Program Contact

      Alexandra Rose
      Education and Outreach Coordinator

Program Categories


  • Biological Sciences
  • Climate Change
  • Education (K-12)
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Science
  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)

Program Types:

  • Classroom Instruction
  • Lesson Plans/Teaching Resources
  • Professional Development - Teacher
  • Workshop


  • Minority Group(s)
  • Rural Communities
  • Students - Elementary School
  • Teachers - Elementary School

We do our best to accurately represent CU Boulder’s outreach programs and services, but they are subject to change and may no longer be active in a community. Please contact the program directly for current information.