Indicator Species Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teach your students about indicator species with this lesson plan. A text lesson defines the term, then explains the concept using concrete examples students can easily understand. Hands-on learning, discussion question, and a quiz mean your students remember concepts long-term.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define indicator species
  • describe types of indicator species


1 - 1.5 hours


Key Vocabulary

  • Indicator species

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.3

Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4

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 6-8 texts and topics.


  • Connect students to prior learning and engage with the topic by dividing them into partner pairs and having them discuss the definition of the term 'species.'
  • After a few minutes of conversation, discuss as a whole group and define.
  • Tell students they will be learning about 'indicator species.' Allow students to infer the definition for this term, then distribute the lesson Indicator Species: Definition & Examples.
  • Read 'What is an Indicator Species?' together and define the term on the board or with an anchor chart.
  • Discuss:
    • Why and how do scientists use indicator species?
    • What can be an indicator species?
  • Write 'Spotted Owl' on the board and create the subheadings 'Environment,' 'What it tells us' and 'Why it tells us this.'
  • Work with students to fill in this information using the lesson.
  • Now assign each partner pair either the worm, lichen or stonefly and instruct them to analyze their species in the same way.
  • When students are finished, have them meet with other students who analyzed the same animal and compare data, condensing and synthesizing to agree on the answer.
  • Give groups chart paper to record their work on, then have each group present their findings.
  • Read the 'Lesson Summary' together and take the quiz as a group to check understanding.

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