Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Woman Crush Wednesday: Rachel Carson

Biological Unity and Diversity

Mariah Warren, Daniel Schwarz | Published: November 22nd, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th
  • Subject Subject Science
  • Course Course Biology I
  • Time Frame Time Frame 1-2 class period(s)
  • Duration More 100 minutes


This lesson is part of a series, titled "Woman Crush Wednesday" in which we look at how female scientists have shaped our view of science. In this biology lesson, students will explore the contributions of Rachel Carson, the impact of human activity on our ecosystem, and how organisms develop resistance over time.

Essential Question(s)

How have female scientists shaped science today? What effects can humans have on our ecosystem?



Students complete a Bell Ringer activity to assess their prior knowledge about natural selection and resistance before being introduced to Rachel Carson.


Students use the Inside Out strategy to explore what they know about Rachel Carson. Students play the Antibiotic Resistance Game to explore the concept of bacterial resistance development.


Students watch a video titled "Lessons from Silent Spring for Controlling Disease."


Students create a Six-Word Memoir about Rachel Carson or natural selection.


Students participate in a Carousel activity to present their Six-Word Memoir and hear their peers' memoirs.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Bell Ringer handout (attached, one per student)

  • Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

  • Inside Out handout (attached, one per student)

  • Art supplies and poster board

  • Sticky notes

  • Student devices with internet access


Go to slide 3. Before class begins, invite students to complete a Bell Ringer activity that will assess their prior knowledge. Give students the Bell Ringer handout and ask them to record their responses to the following questions:

  1. What is natural selection?

  2. Can you name any examples of chemicals or products that have been developed to control populations of pests or organisms?

  3. Why do you think a single formula doesn’t work to control all disease-carrying organisms?

Go to slide 4 to introduce the essential questions and then to slide 5 to introduce the lesson objectives.

Go to slide 6. If you have a copy of Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky, read students the Rachel Carson excerpt (pages 58-59). If you do not have access to that book, show students the video Rachel Carson - A History for Kids on slide 7.


Go to slide 8. Use the Inside Out strategy to help students explore what they know about Rachel Carson. Provide the Inside Out handout to each student. Invite students to fill out the innermost circle with what they know about Rachel Carson. They can use bullet points, drawings, etc. to document their knowledge. After students have had time to complete the innermost circle, have them share with what they know with a partner and record anything their partner says that they did not previously list in the middle circle.

Inside Out graphic organizer

Go to slide 9. Invite students to access the game Antibiotic Resistance from BrainPop on their devices. The game has a comic strip introduction that students should read before moving on to complete each of the three levels. When students are finished playing, ask them to answer the following questions to debrief:

  • What does resistance mean?

  • How is antibiotic resistance selected for in bacteria?

  • How do other organisms adapt to stimuli from the environment?


Go to slide 10. Show students the video Lessons from Silent Spring for Controlling Disease from the PBS Learning Media website. As students watch the video, invite them to add anything that they learn to the middle circle of their Inside Out graphic organizer.

Have a quick discussion with students after the video and before moving to the Extend activity. Discussion topics could include:

  • How mosquitoes have become resistant to DDT, allowing them to survive longer and spread malaria.

  • How the scenario in the video resembles the bacteria simulation that students saw in the Explore activity.

  • Other ways students might have seen whole species change over generations (adaptations) and how those changes differ from changes within an individual (development).

  • How species that live longer and have longer gestation periods take longer to adapt or undergo natural selection, while species with lives and gestation periods (like mosquitoes) adapt more quickly, allowing their changes to be observed during our lifetimes.


Go to slide 11. Have students return to their partners to discuss the new things that they have learned. Together, students should decide how what they have learned connects to what they have been learning in class. Ask students to get out their Inside Out graphic organizers and record these answers in the outermost circle. Ask students, "How did the changes Rachel Carson brought about with her book Silent Spring affect other parts of the ecosystem?"

Go to slide 12. Ask students to summarize their learning by creating a Six-Word Memoir about either Rachel Carson or natural selection. For guidance on how to write a six-word memoir, provide students with an example using another subject, such as Rosa Parks: "Refused to move. Launched a movement." Let students know it might also be helpful to add a brief description of why they chose those six words to represent their learning, because they will need to explain this when they present their memoirs later.


Go to slide 13. Invite students to display their Inside Out graphic organizers and Six-Word Memoirs around the room. Students will participate in a Carousel activity to view others' work. This activity will be done in two rounds. For round one, half of the students will serve as presenters while the other half carousel around the room to view the presentations, and then for round two the groups will switch roles. When presenting, students should share their Six-Word Memoirs and then give a brief description of why they chose to represent the topic with those six words. They can refer to their Inside Out handout to contribute to their presentations. Provide sticky notes to the students who are viewing the presentations to provide feedback about each presentation.