K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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The Kenan Fellows Program at North Carolina State University pairs selected K-12 teachers with distinguished scientists to learn about new developments and to gain an understanding of the significance of current research and scientific practice for students. Each Fellow works to translate the research experience into relevant instructional plans for use in classrooms, producing innovative curricular tools and resources aligned with the North Carolina curriculum standards.

This page provides an alphabetical listing of Kenan Fellows’ instructional plans published on the LEARN NC website.

Unit plans

BioMusic by Crystal Patillo and Debra Hall
Grades 2-5
Biomusicology is the exciting area in science where music intertwines with biology. Your students will be fascinated by these lessons that cover the miracles of animal communication, the mechanics of sound, and their connections to the field of music.
Critical Thinking in Science by Daniell DiFrancesca
Grade 8
This unit of inquiry-based lessons teaches eighth-grade students to utilize and develop critical thinking skills. Students will create testable questions; design and perform experiments; collect, organize, and analyze data; and use these results to decide on the next step in the scientific process.
CSI Dublin: The Hunt for the Irish Potato Killer by Rebecca Hite
Grades 9-12
In these lesson plans, students will act as CSI agents investigating the mysterious pathogen that caused the massive potato crop failure and resultant Great Famine of 1845 in Ireland.
Design Technology: Children’s Engineering by Erin Denniston
Grades 5-6
This unit includes design technology projects linked to major themes in engineering. All the lessons and activities support national and state standards. They include materials lists, procedures, student data sheets, and assessment strategies. The lessons vary in grade level and can be modified up or down.
The Earth and Sun: Investigations for the Third Grade by John Heffernan and Ronen Plesser
Grade 3
In this set of lessons for a third-grade curriculum unit on the Earth and Sun, students progress from observing the Sun’s path through the daytime sky to understanding that the Sun’s apparent motion is actually a result of Earth’s rotation about an axis.
I’m on a Diet and Proud of it: Nutrition Through Math and Science by Karina Colón
Grade 4
In this unit, students will be involved in hands-on, inquiry activities that integrate various subject areas in order to learn and apply concepts of food chemistry and nutrition.
Integrating Chemistry and Algebra II by Jennifer Elmo
Grades 9-12
This unit was created by Kenan Fellow Jennifer Elmo to link the understanding of concepts in Chemistry to skills learned in Algebra II. Students will use systems of equations to solve problems and matrices to balance chemical reactions. This fresh approach reinforces students’ understanding of the relationship between two disciplines that have traditionally been taught separately.
Invention Convention by Briana Corke Pelton
Grade 4
In this integrated unit, students will draw upon language arts, science, and math while inventing a magnetic or electric product. The lessons in this unit provide accommodations for English Language Learners at a variety of developmental levels.
A Mathematical Model to Describe Fluid Behavior by Jenny Rucker
Grade 8
Middle school students will learn how to use math to model and predict natural phenomena. Through hands-on labs, students will explore the behavior and effects of fluid in and around objects and organisms. Students will investigate and create fluid transport systems and gather data to calculate natural frequencies. Using scale models to gain a better understanding, they will use data to predict real-life effects on trees and other structures.
On Track Learning by Roxanne Moses
Grade 8
This unit is an eighth grade curriculum that integrates 4-H topics with science and math. Using the theme of safety and NASCAR racing, the overall objective is for students to design a car that will protect its passenger from injury.
Proto-ZOO-ology: A Problem-based Protist Inquiry Unit by Cate Colangelo
Grade 8
This unit for eighth grade focuses on protists and their diversity. Protists are used to examine classification systems, population diversity, life-sustaining processes, stimulus/response in the environment, and many other big concepts that are repeated when studying larger, more complex organisms. A strong foundation in these concepts at the unicellular level will improve student understanding throughout the life science/biology learning progression
Restoring the American Chestnut by Shelley Casey
Grades 9-12
A blight devastated American chestnut trees in the early 1900s. In this unit students will study how biotechnology is being used to develop a blight-resistant tree. They will engage in hands-on activities to apply their knowledge of DNA and genetics to simulate the steps needed to find the genes for resistance and insert them into an American chestnut tree. Lessons are designed to be used for any level of biology and do not require high-tech equipment.
Understanding Data Mining: Extracting, Organizing, and Analyzing Large Sets of Data by Dail Midgette
Grades 9-12
Mathematics students in grades nine through twelve will be able to extract useful information from large sets of data that represent multiple disciplines. Using these real-world applications, students will analyze data and use their findings to make predictions and to provide solutions to problems.
Why Does Chemistry Matter in My Life? by Lisa Hibler
Grades 9-12
This series of high school chemistry lesson plans was created by Kenan Fellow Lisa Hibler to address questions about the relevance of chemistry in everyday life. Lesson plans cover topics including nanotechnology, the periodic table of the elements, stoichiometry, heat, phase changes, and alternative energy.
Work, Power, and Machines by Tara Blalock
Grades 9-12
This series of lesson plans was created by Kenan Fellow Tara Blalock to engage students in the basic principles of all machines and review the six simple machines. In this unit, students also explore the concept of mechanical advantage.

Lesson plans

AIDS in Africa Symposium by Greg Mitchell
Grades 9–12 Science
Students will take on roles of those with a unique perspective on the AIDS crisis in Africa. Taking part in a symposium, each character, famous and ordinary, makes a statement and participates in a question-answer period.
Biomanufacturing: An Inquiry Lesson in Growing Cells by Cinnamon Frame
Grade 8 English Language Arts and Science
In this lesson, students are introduced to the biomanufacturing industry. To understand the intricacy of biomanufacturing pharmaceuticals, students will complete a cell growth activity. They will grow yogurt bacteria in milk media to try to produce lactic acid and adjust variables to try to optimize cell growth and the amount of product produced.
A Dying Industry by Susan Taylor
Grade 10 Social Studies
In this lesson, students learn how tariffs protect certain domestic industries and consider the impact of that protection from a variety of perspectives.
Diseases Throughout Human History by Greg Mitchell
Grades 9-12 Science and Social Studies
Students trace the historical impact of disease on humankind and research key events in the history of disease.
Float, Sink, Flink! by Erin Denniston
Grades 2-4 Science
In this lesson, students will learn to make things flink, meaning they neither float to the top nor sink to the bottom of a fluid. They will discover that whether an object floats or sinks depends not only on the properties of the object itself, but also on the properties of the fluid (either gas or liquid) in which it is situated.
The Germination of a Tree by Harold Mackin
Grades 7 and 9-12 English Language Arts and Science
In this lesson students will attempt to germinate tree seeds and observe the interior of a seed under a microscope.
I’m Tired. Can’t We Just Stay Here? by Harold Mackin
Grade 9 Social Studies
This lesson explores reasons that may have led to the domestication of plants and animals. A timeline of domestication is presented and students will create plant domestication “baseball cards.”
Is China to Blame? by Susan Taylor
Grade 10 Social Studies
In this lesson, students participate in a Paideia seminar about North Carolina’s dwindling furniture industry.
Let’s Get Moving! and Turning Back the Wheel of Time by Diane Ireland
Grades 2-3 Social Studies
In these lessons, students explore the idea concept of logistics and supply chains. They learn about how goods are moved around the world and delivered to consumers, and they develop their own supply chains. The students also create their own presentation demonstrating what they have learned about logistics.
Looking Closely at a Tree: Introduction to Phenotype by Harold Mackin
Grades 9-12 English Language Arts and Science
In this lesson, students will sharpen their observation skills by looking closely at the parts of a slender tree branch. After learning the terms phenotype and genotype in a presentation and class discussion, they will examine the cambium layer and an apical bud from their branches under a microscope.
Postulates and Proofs: Let’s Take it to the Courtroom! by Denise Absher
Grades 9-10 Mathematics
In this lesson, the process of solving proofs is practiced using the comparison and framework of a courtroom setting. Students will work in groups to solve a proof and then defend it in “court.” This unit challenges and engages students, while building their confidence as they learn to support their arguments with sound, logical statements and reasons.
Mapping HIV Infection in Africa by Greg Mitchell
Grades 9-12 Science and Social Studies
Using statistical information and maps, students will note the correlation between socio-economic factors and the impact of HIV/AIDS in the countries of Africa.
Marker-Assisted Selection by Harold Mackin
Grades 9-12 English Language Arts and Science
In this lesson students will learn about marker-assisted selection in trees. Marker-assisted selection is an indirect selection process where a trait of interest is selected based on a marker linked to a trait of interest. Students will conduct two labs. In one, they will extract DNA from a peach and in the other, they will use gel electrophoresis to test tree DNA for frost resistance.
The Seven Forms of Energy by Lauren Beeson
Grades 6-7 Science
Through inquiry and a card-sorting activity, students explore, discover, and demonstrate their understanding of the seven forms of energy. Students sort cards into categories based on their own prior knowledge and the definitions of the seven forms of energy.
Stay Still by Erin Denniston
Grade 5 Science
In this lesson students will learn about stability. They will design and build an earthquake-proof house that takes into account the forces acting upon it and the materials with which it will be built. The house will be tested in a “shake table.” Students will be assessed by the product itself as well as their analysis of the results of the test.
Wife Inheritance and the AIDS Epidemic in Africa by Greg Mitchell
Grades 9-12 English Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies
When an African man dies, it is the responsibility of his brother to inherit his widow. This has become a key factor in the spread of the AIDS virus. This plan looks at this tradition and the AIDS epidemic in African countries and students will discuss possible solutions in a Paideia seminar.