Before Strategy/Engage: 25 minutes
1. Students should write their name and the following question at the top of their notebook paper: "What type of information can fossils provide us about past organisms?" Each student should write a response to the question using at least one complete sentence.
2. Each student should pass the paper to another classmate (the teacher can direct students about the specific way to pass the paper, i.e. down the row, across the group, etc.). The students should read the classmate's response, then write at least one complete sentence to expand upon the classmate's idea. The teacher should allow students to complete this step three additional times (for a total of four passes). The teacher should remind students that their answers should respond to and expand upon their classmate's response, not be an exact copy. After passing the paper to four different students, the paper should be passed back to its original owner. Each student will need to keep his or her chain note until the end of the lesson.
3. For the next portion of the lesson, students will need access to an internet-capable technology device. Depending on the number of available devices, students can complete the following activity independently or in partners. Students will need to navigate to the following website: "Past Lives" (page C7) from the University of California Museum of Paleontology.
Note: Students should carefully read the information on pages C7, C7b, and C8 (these page numbers are found at the end of the web address, right before ".html") of the WebQuest.
Students should also answer the self-checking questions. As students travel through the website, they should answer the following questions on the back of their notebook paper:
- How have paleontologists learned that the whale has changed over time?
- After viewing the timeline of whale evolution, describe how the whale's anatomical structures have changed over time.
- Why might the leg shape of whales have changed over time?
During Strategy/Explore & Explain: 60 minutes
1. The teacher should divide students into collaborative groups of six students each. Each student group will need a copy of "Whales in the Making" from PBS.org and "Eocene Epoch Timeline" from Indiana University.
2. The students should set the timeline up in a vertical manner, with 55 mya (million years ago) at the bottom of the timeline and 34 mya at the top. This teacher should explain that this vertical timeline will represent the chronological order of fossil appearance in rock layers.
Note: As an additional challenge, students can create a scaled model timeline with their group members, rather than using the pre-made timeline. Using a scale of 1 inch=1 million years, the students can create a timeline showing the beginning of the Eocene epoch (55 mya) until the end of the Eocene epoch (34 mya). Students will need a ruler and at least 21 inches of paper to create this timeline.
3. Students should cut apart the six strips of fossil sketches on "Whales in the Making" and place the strips in the correct order on the timeline. For example, strip #1 would be placed towards the top of the timeline, at the 36 mya mark, showing those organisms existed approximately 36 million years ago.
4. The teacher should give each student a copy of the "Whale Data Table" from PBS.org. The students should attempt to fill out the data table as completely as possible, using just their timeline.
5. The teacher should give each student a copy of "The Origin of Whales and the Power of Independent Evidence" article by Raymond Sutera from Indiana University (alternatively, the students could view this article on an internet-capable device). The teacher can read (or allow students to read independently) the first three sections (the introduction, "What is a whale?", and "Thinking about the ancestry of the whale").
6. The teacher should assign each student in the group one organism from the "Paleontological Evidence" section: Sinonyx, Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Rodhocetus, Basilosaurus, and Dorudon. The student should read his or her assigned section and complete the corresponding row on the data table. For example, the student assigned the Sinonyx section would complete the Mesonychids row on the data table.
Note: On the"Whale Data Table", Sinonyx is labeled as "Mesonychids" and Dorudon is labeled as "Zygorhiza".
7. After students have had ample time to read their assigned section and complete the corresponding row on the data table, the teacher should allow students to discuss their answers with their group members. At the end of the discussion, every student should have the data completed. For example, the student assigned the Sinonyx section from the informational text would share his or her answers for the Mesonychids row on the data table, and the group members would write the information on their data tables.
After Strategy/Explain & Elaborate: 15 minutes
1. The students should return to the chain note started at the beginning of the lesson. The students should review both their response and their classmates' responses to the question that was posed at the beginning of the lesson.
2. The students should respond to the following "exit slip" writing prompt on their paper: How have scientists used the fossil record and the chronological order of fossil appearance in rock layers to explain the patterns of change in the whale's anatomical structures (bodily features)? The teacher should instruct the students to use evidence from the lesson's activities to support their answer. The teacher may allow students to respond using both writing and drawings.