Understanding averages using skunks


CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.B.5 Summarize numerical data sets in relation to their context, such as by:

  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.B.5.A Reporting the number of observations.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.B.5.B Describing the nature of the attribute under investigation, including how it was measured and its units of measurement.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.B.5.C Giving quantitative measures of center (median and/or mean) and variability (interquartile range and/or mean absolute deviation), as well as describing any overall pattern and any striking deviations from the overall pattern with reference to the context in which the data were gathered.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.


30 minutes 


In this lesson plan, students will learn how to find the mean and calculate the average and practice finding the average in a game environment. They will learn about skunks and skunk farming through primary source material. Then analyzing historical data, students will calculate the average.


Device with web-browser (Chromebook, laptop or desktop computer)


Introduce the Assignment

Students can read the assignment, Going on a Skunk Hunt , on their own or teachers can read it to the class and ask any questions (5 minutes)

Through the next three activities – video, reading and assessment –  students will gather clues to unlock the “secret password” for the Skunk Hunt and get to play a short online game. Individual links to the video, reading and assessment components are included below for your reference, but are all included in the Skunk Hunt activity as well for ease of student access. 

The answer to the Skunk Hunt/secret password is: 3harvestnewyork1911


Watch this animated video explaining how to find the average. The video includes an example problem walking through the process, introduces the formula to find the average and also includes vocabulary to explain that mean and average the same thing. (2:00)


Read this short post, Skunks for Fur and Farming , about the intersection of skunks and agriculture, incorporating information from primary sources and historical data. (5-10 minutes)


In this assessment activity, Playing the Skunk Market ,students will use a table with historical data to solve two to four problems asking students to find the average. Two problems require solving for the average and two problems require solving for the average or estimating the average. (10-15 minutes)


RELATED: This lesson plan corresponds with the math standards covered in and refers to content included in Forgotten Trail. Forgotten Trail is recommended as a supplemental resource for this activity. The image at the top of this post is from that game. You can view your students’ progress on mastering these standards by viewing your teacher reports. You can access the Forgotten Trail reports here.

All About Sheep


Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.

Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.


This English language arts and agriculture lesson consists of two short activities that teach students in Grades 3-4 about sheep using an online ebook and flashcards about domestic sheep. The lesson ends with a formative assessment writing activity consisting of either an informational writing prompt or an opinion one.

⏰Time Required

30 minutes

📲Technology Required

Access to computer or tablet for remote learning. Printing out cards for your students is best for this lesson.


Activity 1: Use flash cards to learn vocabulary

The sheep flash cards below can be used to pre-teach the vocabulary found in the All About Sheep book for 8-10 minutes.

Download ready-to-print flash cards

Activity 2

  • Click the link to access the ebook on Book Creator: All About Sheep.
  • Students may read the book on their own or alternatively, listen to it.
  • This can take 5-10 minutes.


Have students complete a writing prompt about what they learned after reading All About Sheep. This can take about 10-15 minutes. You can choose from the following writing activities.

  1. Opinion Writing Prompts
  • My favorite part of being a shepherd would be…
  • If I had wool, I would make…
  • If I could feed a sheep a snack, I would feed it…

2. Informational Writing Prompts

  • Reflect: Why are sheep important to us? What resources do they give us?
  • Reflect: Why do sheep need a shepherd?
  • Synthesize (Going beyond the text.): Why might it be important to put colorful markings on a ewe and her lamb?

3. Book Review

  • Write a book review about All About Sheep. Have students tell other young readers what the book was about. Have students include their own evaluation or interpretation about All About Sheep.


Science, language arts and math with wildflowers


English/ Language Arts

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.7 Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.

Next Generation Science Standard

MS-LS2-1 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.

Mathematics Standard

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.A.3 Recognize that a measure of center for a numerical data set summarizes all of its values with a single number.

📲 Technology required

Optionally, the teacher will have access to a printer to print pages 2-3 of the book and selected pages to color. Since choke cherry and Simpson’s Ball Cactus are mentioned in the problems, it is recommended that, at a minimum, these pages should be printed. Alternatively, the link can be shared to students who are learning from home to read material on their computer.

📃 Summary

This is a true STREAM lesson. Combining science, reading, art and mathematics. Students read a description of the pine forest ecosystem and life zones. They define any new words in their personal dictionary. Students then use information on plant life to identify life zones and locate these zones in terms of altitude. Students who complete the activity before the allotted class time play a game that teaches fractions and basic statistics.

Time Required

50 minutes

📚 Lesson Plan

Read pages two and three of Wildflowers of Ponderosa Pine Forests Coloring Book – These pages explain the pine forest ecosystem, including an illustration of Life Zones.

Complete word journal

Some teachers call it a personal dictionary, to others it’s a word journal. Regardless, the goal is the same, for students to record new words, give a dictionary definition and “make the word their own”. This can be done by rewriting the definition in their own words, using the word in a sentence or including an illustration of the word.

Two dictionary sites to recommend for definitions are below. An added bonus to mention to students is that they can hear words pronounced.

Since students often ask for an example, here is an example you can link in your lesson.

The personal dictionary assignment, with all links, can be found here. Feel free to copy and paste into your Google classroom or other site, or print out for your class.

Use Life Zones to Solve Problems

Angie and Sam are on their way to Michigan but they have gotten so, so lost! They are somewhere in Colorado. Sam has sent Angie this text:

Hey, Angie! I can’t see you anywhere. All I can see are trees, a whole lot of trees, and if I look up the mountain, I see even more trees, closer together. I recognize this plant with red berries. Grandma called it choke cherry. Where are you? How can I meet you? Should I go up or down?

Angie texts him back,

There aren’t that many trees around me, but there are some of these round cactus plants. We are definitely not in Michigan!

Use the information on life zones to answer these questions. (Hint: You may have to look on the plant pages as well.)

  1. In which of the five life zones is Sam right now? How do you know?
  2. In which of the five life zones is Angie right now? How do you know?
  3. Should Sam go up the mountain or down the mountain to meet up with Angie? Why?

Click here for the life zone assignment as a Google doc.

BONUS 1: Game Play

You might recognize Sam and Angie from the game, Forgotten Trail, where they try to retrace their ancestors’ journey across the U.S. and Canada. If you finish this assignment and your personal dictionary before class time is over, play Forgotten Trail here.

BONUS 2: Art

As an alternate bonus activity, students may color the pictures in the book according to the legend included. This would require that the teacher print pages for students. Since choke cherry and Simpson’s Ball Cactus are mentioned in the problems, it is recommended that, at a minimum, these pages should be printed.


Recommended rubric for the Personal Dictionary is as follows:

This assignment is worth 100 points. A minimum of ten words is required. You can include up to two extra  words for an additional 20 points.

Each word is worth 10 points.

  • Dictionary definition – 3 points
  • Definition in your own words – 5 points
  • Use in a sentence or draw a picture – 2 points

Recommended rubric for Life Zone Questions

Each question is worth 25 points.

Sam is in the Montane zone (5 points). We know this because he sees a lot of trees and the Montane zone is a forested area. He said that there are even more trees up ahead so we know he is not in the subalpine area because above that are no trees (10 points). He also saw choke cherry plants and these are at elevation from 7,000 – 9,000 feet. The Montane zone starts at 8,000 feet. (10 points)

Angie is in the Foothills (5 points). We know this because she says there are not many trees (10 points) and she sees the Simpson’s Ball Cactus which is common in the Foothills (10 points).

Sam should go down the mountain to meet Angie (5 points) because Sam is in the Montane zone, which is at 8,000 to 10,000 feet (10 points) and she is in the Foothills which is at (6,000 to 8,000 feet) so he needs to go down in altitude to meet her (10 points).

Assessment for Forgotten Trail math problems

Problems are scored automatically within the game. Teachers who are part of the Growing Math project or with 7 Generation Games site license can access student data from the Reports page.