Lesson Plan

Organisms’ Responses to the Environment


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Big Ideas




In this lesson, students learn about how organisms respond to the environment. They also investigate the characteristics of octopuses that have allowed them to survive since the Cambrian period. Students will:

  • distinguish between instinctive and learned behaviors.
  • identify and give examples of stimuli and responses.
  • describe the responses of organisms to various stimuli.
  • relate behavior in octopuses to their survival.
  • design a scientific experiment to test how microscopic multicellular organisms respond to a stimulus in the environment.

Essential Questions

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  • Behavior: The way an organism responds to a stimulus in its environment.
  • Camouflage: Protective coloration and/or texture that enables an animal to blend in with its environment.
  • Cephalopod: A group of mollusks that has muscular tentacles, well-developed eyes, and a sac that contains ink used for defense or to hide; includes octopuses, squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus.
  • Environment: All of the surroundings of an organism.
  • Instinctive Behavior: Inborn behavior that does not depend on experience (e.g., a spider weaving a web).
  • Learned Behavior: Behavior that depends on experience or observing other organisms.
  • Mollusks: Invertebrates that have a fleshy, muscular body. The phylum Mollusca includes snails, bivalves, squids, and octopuses.
  • Response: An organism’s reaction to a stimulus.
  • Stimulus: A signal from the environment or from within an organism.


90 minutes/2 class periods

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  • Innate Behavior


  • Learned Behavior


  • The Cephalopod Page


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