Do We Need A New Phylum? (Part 1/2)

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Using recently discovered evidence from scientific professionals, students will determine if a new animal phylum is necessary.

Big Idea

When new evidence presents itself, scientific thinking is revised.

What Students will Learn in this Lesson

1 minutes

Students brought the news article used in this lesson to my attention. I thought it would be a wonderful way for them to review the construction of a cladogram. Students also decided that they would post what they learned to the class blog.This is day one of a two day lessonHere is an overview of what they will learn today.

Hook/Check for Understanding

5 minutes

Show students the following image and ask them if it appears to be a new type of animal to them.

Ask students to write their hypothesis and reasoning in their lab notebooks.


Ask for several student volunteers to share their thoughts. Next, ask students to brainstorm the type of information they would need to determine if the animal could be placed in an existing phyla or if it needed its own separate phyla. Students should record their questions in their lab notebooks. 

Student Reading

20 minutes

Students should independently read the National Geographic article, New Deep-Sea Animal Species Look Like Mushrooms, but Defy Classification. To help them organize their thoughts while reading, they should complete a current events summary sheet.  

When they have completed their reading, students should revisit their initial questions that were written in their lab notebook.  They should determine which ones were answered and write the answers next to the questions.  

Bring the class back together and ask students to explain which questions were answered by the National Geographic article. Then ask them what questions still remain.  Give students time to should add to their list of questions in their lab notebook. Students should consider what information they would need to know to determine if the animasl can be placed in an existing phylum or if a new one is needed. Move about the room and assist students in brainstorming questions, if necessary.

Targeted Reading

20 minutes

Next, refer students to another article about the newly discovered animals. Have students complete another current event summary independently.  When they have finished with the current events summary, students should revisit their original list to determine if any more of their questions have been answered.

Bring students back together to discuss what new information they found.  Ask students where they think from where the original information came for the two articles that they previously read. Students should conclude that they need to find the PLOS ONE article to determine the entire story.

Using the attached handout, have students read the study summary with their lab partner. First, have students start with the abstract. Next, have them look at the figures and images. Finally, have them look at the methods and analysis sections.  (Note: Here is an example of the completed Targeted Reading.)

When students have finished reading, they should look back at their list of questions to determine which of their previous questions have been answered.  They should also add new questions to their list in their lab notebook.  

Putting It All Together: What More Do We Need to Know

10 minutes

Once students have updated their list of questions, bring the class back together to summarize what they have learned today. Encourage students to share their list of unanswered questions and together compile a list on the white board. Next, ask students how they would search to find the answers to their questions. Have students organize their list of questions in order of importance and brainstorm several keywords to use in an Internet search. Assign each student team a question to explore during the next class period.