Embryos, Animals and Evolution

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SWBAT explain the evidence supports evolution from a common ancestor.

Big Idea

Am I part shark? Students investigate all they have in common with a wide range of animals and determine how this evidence supports evolution.


10 minutes

There is nothing like the unexpected to capture the students' attention.  Embryos of many different animals look startlingly similar to each other.  These images go far in helping students envision life coming from a single common ancestor, especially in light of the other evidence we have discussed during this unit.

As students enter the room I have the first page of the interactive Guess the Embryo from NOVA projecting on the screen (click the link and click the launch interactive button).  This interactive shows images of embryos of different animals and asks the students to select which of four animals it is.  I like to do this activity as a whole class.  I ask students to write their answer in their notebook and then I call on a student to guess on behalf of the class.  Once we uncover the correct animal, I show the class the "watch it grow" feature that has a series of photos that document the development of the embryo over time - it is fantastic!

At the completion of the interactive, I ask students to state what they noticed about all of the embryos shown and how this relates to what they have learned about common ancestry.  After having a few students share their answers to the class I ask each student to write their answer in their science journal.

This video demonstrates how I have the students in class respond when we go through the interactive (though in class it is much louder and I could not capture a good video that captured both the screen and student responses).  Once students make their guesses we look at the development - the bat and the turtle are our favorites.


30 minutes

In my goal to continue developing my students' ability to successfully gather information on their own, I provide students with the Note Taking Guide and allow them to work through the interactive The Zoo of You by NOVA.  This interactive explains how much of human anatomy and physiology has in common with other species, including sharks, worms, sea anemone, and pterosaurs.   It is incredibly interesting, which is good because it does require students to read to discover the information.  

I want you to work through this interactive which explains how many things human anatomy and physiology (our body and how it works) have in common with other species.  I would like you to work with a partner to go over this information and document what you discover in the note taking guide.  Be sure to access all of the information provided and summarize what you learned in your own words - I don't want anyone's notes to match the website words exactly.  Putting ideas into your own words forces you to understand/comprehend the information in a way that just copying from a source does not and lets you really learn from this activity.

As students work through this, they complete the note taking guide because this is part of developing their own ability to make sense of new information.  I do not typically micro-manage students as it is important that students have autonomy to approach these information gathering lessons in the way that allows them to be successful.  Additionally, this allows students of all abilities to be successful at their own level.  Also, because the final assessment is project based rather than a traditional test, I am not concerned that each student pull out the same information, but rather that they understand the bigger concept - all animals have these similarities because we descended from a common ancestor.


5 minutes

To conclude this lesson I ask students to complete a 3-2-1 Exit Slip. Students write 3 things they learned, 2 questions they have, and 1 thing they think they will never forget about this lesson.  

Having students clearly write what they learned during a lesson forces them to reflect on all they did during the lesson and help transfer this information into their long term memory.  Allowing students a way to communicate their questions to me helps me to make decisions about how to plan future lessons to address things that were unclear to students.  Having students tell me about something they will never forget helps me to gauge what they responded to in the lesson so I can continue to incorporate similar items in future lessons.