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UDL Makeover: Science Lesson Plan

Allison Posey
Allison Posey
July 4, 2021

Conserving Biodiversity 

Original Lesson Plan (Brian Johnson, High School Science Teacher in Vermont)
  Original UDL Makeover
Before and After

brain iconGoals

What is a current threat to the biodiversity of Vermont and what are we doing to conserve the biodiversity in Vermont?

Be sure to really know the goal and divide the goal into all the parts. 

There were multiple goals embedded in this one lesson. Separate the goals for each part of the lesson. In this one, for example:

  • The big idea of this lesson is to understand the importance of biodiversity and (1) to understand threats to biodiversity in Vermont and (2) what is being done to conserve biodiversity in VT.
  • A second goal in this lesson is that students are expected to conduct research and annotate sources. They need to be “credible.” 
  • A third goal in this lesson is for students to create a “one-pager.”

In this part, we focus on the goal for students to identify the threats to biodiversity in Vermont and know ways to conserve biodiversity. Note how having a clear goal helps to understand where there can be flexibility. 

Once the goal is clear:

  • Put the goals and objectives at the top of the activity, so students know what they want to achieve (UDL Guideline 8.1). 
  • Find a hook- why should students engage or be interested in this goal? How is the issue of biodiversity and conserving biodiversity important for them? (UDL Guideline 7.2)
  • Have flexible ways students can achieve the goals (use any of the UDL Guidelines to provide flexible pathways) 

Brainstorm potential barriers that may block students from achieving the goals

  • The conservation biology terminology may be new to students (UDL Guideline 2), 
  • Make sure content can be seen and heard (UDL Guideline 1), 
  • the content related to biodiversity and conservation may be new for students (UDL Guideline 3). 
  • Can students record what they are learning (UDL Guideline 4).
  • Is the topic made to be relevant or of interest (UDL Guideline 7)

For Goal 2, potential barriers could include: 

  • Experience researching (UDL Guidelines 3 and 6), 
  • Experience writing a one-pager (UDL Guideline 5), 
  • Understanding how to assess a threat to biodiversity (UDL Guideline 8), 
  • Engagement in the topic (UDL Guideline 7), 
  • Knowing how to get started (UDL Guideline 6), 
  • Keeping on task (UDL Guideline 6), 
  • Self-evaluating their one-pager (UDL Guideline 9)
  • … and more.

Once you have identified some barriers in the lesson, you can go to those suggested UDL Guidelines to brainstorm how to design the lesson more flexibly.

assignments icon


Your product must include information about the topic and show your understanding of the past, present, and future of your problem and how it connects to Vermont.

  1. The questions students are instructed to answer are:
  • HISTORY - What is the history behind how this particular threat came to be? What is the history and background information about this threat?
  • IMPACT - What kind of impact has it had on the biodiversity in Vermont? Does it affect the water quality of the Vermont watershed, a particular plant or animal species, maybe the geography, etc.?
  • PREVENTION - What are we doing to protect and help prevent this problem from getting worse? Has anything been put in place to remove or address this problem?
  1. Students are instructed to create a “one-pager” for this.

A one-pager is a way to visually share key ideas and information from what you have learned. When you create a one-pager, you are trying to use both visual symbols and important words to clearly and concisely share your most important takeaways about your topic with someone else.

There is a checklist for the one-pager.


[   ] Completed on an 8.5” x 11” piece of paper (standard white paper)

[   ] Neat, organized, written, colored, and created by hand

[   ] Neat, organized, written, colored, and created by hand

[   ] A border around the edges that represents the key characteristics of your topic through words and/or images

[   ] Include key terms, quotes, and/or definitions that help to explain your topic

[   ] Images that help to support your topic

[   ] A main title across the center that represents the key theme of the work

[   ] Address/answer the History of how this threat came to Vermont

[   ] Address/answer the Impact and present-day effects on the biodiversity in Vermont

[   ] Address/answer the Prevention and how we are helping to address the problem in Vermont

[   ] Name on the back of the One Pager

[   ] Completed and submitted before the due date

[   ] Research Template/Notes submitted along with the One Pager (see next page)

There is also a rubric, which includes:

  • Topic analysis: “Shows a deep understanding of the topic.”
  • Element checklist: “Every required element is included. Additional elements may also have been added.”
  • Stewardship:” The student can apply their understanding of human/species  impact by taking informed action (e.g., deeper learning, applying my learning to a solution, creating a solution).”

Goal 1:  To understand threats to biodiversity and what is being done about them. 

Assessment suggestion: students can check their answers to the history, impact, and prevention questions.

Goal 2: Students are to research and annotate credible sources.  

Assessment suggestion: have students peer-assess the annotations and credibility of a peer and of their own work. Have a checklist or single-point rubric that has the qualities of a “credible” source for them to use to self and peer score.

Goal 3: Students are to develop a one-pager to use their credible research about threats and preventions to biodiversity. 

Assessment suggestion: have a rubric that focuses on what makes for a successful one-pager. For example, it could include the content it should contain, the research sources, and the writing structures that should be included (such as a thesis, supporting detail, conclusion statement, etc.).

Here are a few “UDL questions” about the original checklist:

There are many non-construct relevant components to the rubric that are not tied to students understanding the threats to biodiversity in VT and what is being done about it. For example, an educator could ask:
  • Why is neatness part of the grade?
  • Why does the one-pager have to be handwritten?
  • Could there be a one-pager template that already has the border and size restrictions?
  • How can a student assess if an image is “helps support the topic” - is there a specific criteria checklist that can be used for students to objectively critique images? 
In addition, there are several vague statements in the rubric that make assessment more subjective. For example, “Shows a deep understanding of the topic.” Will students be able to know what “deep understanding of the topic” means? The more clear the assessment criteria is, the more students will understand what success means and can work to achieve that. These could be suggested checkpoints that could be included in an assessment of the one-pager:
  • Describes the threat.
  • States how this particular threat came to be.
  • Gives 1-2 details about how this threat came to be.
  • States the impact this threat has had on the biodiversity in Vermont.
  • States if the threat affects the water quality of the Vermont watershed, a particular plant or animal species, the geography.
  • States how we are preventing this threat.
  • States suggestions for additional actions that could be done.
Then, there should be some assessment of the research skills. For example, a research rubric could include that the research:
  • Included at least 3 sources.
  • Included credible sources, (“credible” is defined as… being from peer-reviewed journals, or other criteria the teacher deems to be “credible”).
  • Included the correct citation (author, year, title, journal, or publisher.)

Note how now, the rubrics have focused on the key content and skills that are the focus for this lesson. The rubrics did not have vague, subjective descriptions, but were specific and measurable. Students are then better able to self-reflect on their work - or share feedback with peers. Teachers can be more objective in the assessments of the skills and content understanding.

Consider using a single-point rubric that contains all of the specific criteria that students have or do not have. A barrier for students in rubrics is all of the text and clarity around what the expectations are.

Science Lab@3x

Methods & Materials


For the methods and materials UDL analysis, separate the skill (students will conduct research and craft a one-pager) and the content (students will understand threats to biodiversity and prevention steps in VT). 

To support goal #1, for students to build background:

  • Students can have the option to work together and to answer questions about threats and prevention (UDL Guideline 7).
  • Offer multiple ways to learn basic information about threats to biodiversity and prevention strategies in VT, such as videos, articles, and more. (UDL Guideline 3).
  • Before the one-pager, students can have flexible ways to share their understanding of the threats to biodiversity and prevention - it may still include the research and citations. For example, students could develop a PowerPoint or a short video that includes all of the information and references. These even offer opportunities to include images, which may deepen understanding of the threats to biodiversity and prevention strategies.

To support goal #2, students will conduct research:

  • The research template can be used to direct students to list the source and analyze it.
  • Students can have the option to work together and to research and check the credibility of sources (UDL Guideline 7).

To support goal #3, students will craft a one-pager:

  • Include sentence starters and a model example so students really know what success looks like. (UDL Guideline 3 and 6).
  • Students can have the option to work together to develop the one-pager (UDL Guideline 7).
  • Have a “help” station or option available along the way- perhaps options to conference with the teacher if they are stuck (UDL Guideline 7).
  • Having a worked example of the full project (research, citations, analysis, and one-pager) with the key features highlighted (UDL Guideline 6).






Explore More Universally Designed Lesson Plan Makeovers:

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Learn strategies and approaches to design for students to think and act like scientists! Explore how to support scientific discourse, to use models to support the development of robust understandings of complex science concepts, to infuse assessments that are aligned to standards and to develop expert learning, and to integrate standards, such as the Next Generation Science Standards in lesson design.  

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