Causes of Mass Extinction Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

With this lesson plan, your students will learn about the causes of mass extinctions. They will examine how multiple factors combine to create immense ecological pressure and conduct a basic research project on specific extinctions.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define mass extinction and distinguish it from normal rates of extinction
  • Understand how multiple factors compound to create extreme ecological pressure on species
  • Identify and describe the five mass extinctions in history


60-90 minutes

Curriculum Standards

  • MS-ESS3-4

Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.

  • MS-LS4-1

Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.


  • Printed copies of Mass Extinctions: Causes & Theories and Lesson Quiz
  • Student-supplied notebooks and pencils/pens
  • 25 medium-sized, shallow, rectangular boxes in the rough shape of domino tiles painted white or covered in white paper, such as pizza boxes, flat-rate shipping boxes, etc.
  • Basic craft supplies (optional)

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account