Comparing Animal Anatomy: A Visible Biology Lesson Plan

Through learning about the differences and similarities between animals, biology students think critically about anatomical structures and what makes these animals suitable for their environments.

In this blog post, we’ll walk through a lesson plan that asks students to compare and contrast different animals using the four animal models in Visible Biology: the earthworm, sea star, frog, and pig. 


GIF of pig model in Visible Biology

With its 3D interactive, dissectible models, Visible Biology is definitely up to the task! The app makes it easy to explore internal anatomy with a couple clicks and zero prep or cleanup. Visible Biology was built with learning in mind—clicking on a structure brings up a definition that gives students important information and context for the structures. Clicking the pronunciation button plays an audio clip of the name of the structure read aloud, giving students the confidence to use and discuss these terms out loud. 

Step 1: Independent exploration

In the first step, students’ own interests and curiosity guide them through the models. 

Venn diagram worksheets give students a focus as they explore. Through manipulating the different models, students will discover similarities and differences between the animals and structures. 

This downloadable PDF contains three different Venn diagram worksheets you can print and use in your classroom!

Now students are ready to review the information they’ve discovered and learn more about these structures! 

Step 2: Lecture

This is the perfect time to introduce a lecture that brings together and expands upon ideas your students have just explored. 

With Tours, you and your students can get more out of lectures! Tours are a series of shared Views—think of them like a 3D slideshow where you can manipulate the models on each “slide.” 


GIF from Visible Biology

Using Tours, give your students an overview of the anatomy in each animal model. When students have questions, you can manipulate the models to illustrate answers! Additionally, you can move through different body systems with ease using the systems tray. 


GIF from Visible Biology

Step 3: Compare/contrast labs

After the lecture, students will be prepared to work through labs! In addition to virtual animal dissection labs, the education team at Visible Body has several lab manuals and lesson plans for comparing the nervous, respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems of the different animal models.

Not only do these premade labs save instructors time, but they also feature correlations to state and national science standards, so you know you’ve got your bases covered. 

Step 4: The G.O.A.T

Let's engage students in a different way with a fun classroom competition where students use their newfound knowledge and their debate skills to decide which of the four animals is the G.O.A.T—the greatest of all time. 

Of course, there is no objective “greatest” animal, but students will enjoy having a team to root for and getting creative as they make their arguments. 

Split the class into four groups—for larger classrooms, you may need to break things up further and get a little creative. Each team will represent one of the animal models, and they should be given time to prepare their cases and use Visible Biology to review their animal and get a look at the competition.

Students should consider:

  • How do my animal’s structures make them suitable for their environments? 
  • What makes my animal unique among the others? 
  • What structures are analogous to those in the other animals?

Start with the sea star and earthworm teams, and after the coolest invertebrate wins, move on to the pig and frog. The other, noncompeting teams will vote on which team won their debate. 

Then, the winning invertebrate and winning vertebrate’s teams will go head-to-head to decide which animal is crowned the G.O.A.T!

This is a fun way to get students engaged and working together as a team. This form of debate also appeals to learning standards and higher order thinking as students use verbal, argumentative, and analytical skills!

More ideas 

Want more ideas for the biology classroom? Visible Biology has even more features to explore, including Flashcards and interactive dissection quizzes to help students review what they’ve learned!

For more lesson plans, check out these blog posts: 


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