Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 5-8, students play Marvelous Models, a game that challenges them to create models from scratch. Through play, students gain insight into a system through the process of breaking it down.  

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Lesson Plan Next Generation Science Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Recognize that a model is made up of multiple variables that work together.
  2. Understand how relationships affect a system
  3. Building and refining systems models.
  4. Analyze data.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard


This lesson plan features a game called Marvelous Models, developed by our partner,  Field Day Lab. In this game, students apply their knowledge of computational modeling by analyzing data and building systems models.

Preview and play Marvelous Models, to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be playing in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

Read Marvelous Models: SnapThought Prompts for more information and specific SnapThought prompts to provide students during game play.

Assign Marvelous Models to the whole class using the Assignment Builder.

Depending on your classroom routines and available technology, you may want to consider these grouping options:

  • 1:1 with students and devices
  • Two to three students sharing one device and swapping ideas and the device back and forth
  • Station model where small groups rotate through using the devices

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Ask students to brainstorm what they think a “model” is in science and examples of models they know of. Jot their ideas on the whiteboard. After everyone has had a chance to share, explain that a model is a representation of something in the real world that can’t be experienced directly, such as climate change, plate tectonics, etc. Point out that the models can represent an idea, an object, a process, or a system.
  2. Project the game Marvelous Models on the whiteboard. Tell students that today they will play this game, Marvelous Modeling, in which they’ll analyze data in order to create computational models from scratch. Review the different types of models they’ll create by drawing their attention to the menu screen. Point out that the game is leveled, and that they need to complete each model successfully before moving onto the next.
  3. Model the game by playing the Grow a Tree level as a whole class. Invite volunteers to come up and test out different solutions when you get to the Build a Tree step.
  4. Now have students return to their computers and instruct them to open the Marvelous Models assignment. Circulate as students play and help as needed. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, encourage them to use the SnapThought® tool to take snapshots and describe their thinking as they play.  For suggested prompts, see Marvelous Models: SnapThought Prompts.  
  5. After everyone has played, bring the class together to discuss and review what they learned. Return to the original brainstorm and revise to delete incorrect information and add new knowledge. If students used SnapThought, encourage them to share their reflections.

Extension Activities:

Explore the BrainPOP topics including Climate Change and Greenhouse Effect,  for examples in which Tim and Moby describe complex models.