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Student

Teachers Name: Danielle Wilson


Date: 3/4/15
Lesson Title: Evolution and Fossils
Subject: Biology
Instruction time: 42 minutes
Students grade Level: 10th Grade

State Standard(s):
Species evolve over time. (S.912.LS.8)
Natural selection scientifically explains the fossil record. (S.912.LS.9)
Natural selection explains molecular similarity of diverse species. (S.912.LS.9)
Natural selection is a mechanism for evolution leading to organism diversity. (S.912.LS.9)

Learning Objectives:
Students will investigate the fossil record and describe how it displays evidence of evolution over a long period of
time.
Students will be able to discuss the use of radiocarbon dating to verify dating of the fossil record.

Student Needs/Differentiation:
A student in the special education program will be paired with a student he enjoys working with in order to increase
his motivation.
Other students may receive extra support as I circulate around the room during individual and group work times. If
they are struggling to understand a question or task, I can reword it and use questioning strategies to help scaffold the
lesson better for them.
Some students will receive additional assistance from a resource teacher.

Resources/Materials:
Envelopes with fossil pictures in them
Radiocarbon Pennies Activity worksheet
Small boxes/tubs (one for each pair of students)
Baggies with 100 pennies in them (one for each pair of students)

Instructional method(s) used in this lesson:


Think/Pair/Share
Discussion with higher-order thinking questions
Concrete activities (to help understand abstract concepts)

Lesson Sequence:
Hook:
Ask students: Think back to the article we read about Darwin. He was studying the way species diversify over time.
Naturally, Darwin would have wondered if he could extend this idea backward to show the diversification of species over
a large amount of time. How might scientists study the changes in species over long amounts of time? Students can
make any suggestions that come to mind. You should have someone, however, that suggests looking at the fossil
record. If students dont reach this idea on their own, you can add the question: How do scientists study animals that
existed a long time ago, some of which are now extinct?

Discussion/Predictions:
Once they suggest the fossil record, ask the question: Pretend youre a scientist living in Darwins time, and you wanted
to study fossils to see if the fossil record matches your ideas about how species change and diversify over time. When you
inspect the fossil record, what would you expect to see? If this question is confusing, you may add: What evidence would
you look for in the fossil record to support your ideas? Students may think/pair/share for this.
Student ideas will range, but get students to some sort of consensus. You can create a bulleted list on the board of
their predictions, but make sure to check the predictions align with Darwins ideas about evolution, particularly the
four factors that contribute to evolution. To simplify, this list should illustrate that as you dig deeper in the fossil
record, organisms get simpler. (5 min)

Investigation:
Arrange students in pairs, hand out envelopes to each pair, and tell students: You are paleontologists, and you recently
went on a dig. In these envelopes, you will see photo evidence of the fossils you unearthed. Arrange them from organisms
that look most complex to organisms that look most simple. Then check the numbers on the back of the photos and
rearrange as needed to see the actual order of the fossils (1 being most complex to 10 being least). Discuss with your
partner the following questions:

To what extent does the order of fossils confirm your predictions that organisms would go from the most
complex to the least?
o In arranging the fossils in order, which one(s) did you find to be difficult in placing? Which one(s) surprised you
when you rearranged them into the real order? Why?
Discuss student answers to these questions as a whole class. Students should be able to see that yes, the fossils
followed a pattern similar to what was predicted, even if they had trouble placing one or two of the fossils.
o Ask: In what way does the order in the fossil record provide evidence that supports the idea of evolution?
Students may think/pair/share during this question as needed. They should be able to conclude that the
fossil record provides evidence that organisms do indeed get simpler as you dig deeper, thus affirming the
idea that simpler species diversified, and also affirming that evolution takes a long time.
To further develop this idea that evolution can take a long time, ask students:
o If you were a scientist, and you wanted to verify how long ago an organism lived based on its fossil, how could
you do that? What methods do scientists use today to test the age of a fossil? There should be at least a couple
students that are familiar with carbon dating or other similar methods and make this suggestion. (10 min)
o

Radiocarbon Pennies Activity:


Ask any students that suggested radiocarbon dating how that works. They most likely wont know the answer, so you
will direct their attention to a periodic table. Ask students why the atomic masses are not whole numbers. Tell them,
These atomic masses are based on an average for all versions of this element found in nature. Why do you think an
average is needed? Whats different about some versions of the elements than others? Students may not guess isotopes,
but even if they dont, ask: What do you remember from previous science classes about isotopes? Students may
remember that they are different versions of the same atom with different masses.
Tell students: atoms are often found in nature with varying masses because of isotopes. Isotopes are a version of the
atom that has an uneven number of neutrons and protons. The element of the atom is decided by the protons, but when
there are extra neutrons, it is considered an isotope. For example, if carbon had an extra neutron, how many neutrons
total would it have? When you add the protons and neutrons, what would be the mass of the atom? Students should say
7 and 13, respectively. Okay, so in this circumstance, this atom would be called Carbon-13. Based on this, what do you
think is in Carbon-14? Students should say it has 6 protons, 8 neutrons, and an atomic mass of 14. If they dont say all
of these, guide them to this.
Ask students if they think an isotope like this is going to be more or less stable than Carbon-12. The answer is it is less
stable. Explain that over time, Carbon-14 will change into another element in order to be more stable. Ask students
what other element sometimes has an atomic mass of 14. It is Nitrogen. Explain that over time, the Carbon will
exchange a neutron for a proton, changing it into Nitrogen-14, which is much more stable. Tell students that in order
to understand the rate at which this process works, they will be starting the Radiocarbon Pennies Activity. (15 min)
Students, in pairs, will read the instructions on the Radiocarbon Pennies Activity worksheet before they come up for
supplies. This includes instructions for the activity, a table, and reflection questions. They will then be given a small
tub or box, a baggie with 100 pennies in it and they will complete the activity. (8 min)

Closure of the Lesson:


Instruct any students who did not finish the reflection questions to do this as homework.
Exit Slip:
o What are the four contributing factors in evolution?
o How does the study of fossils help us support our ideas about the contributing factors in evolution? (4 min)

Check(s) for understanding and scaffolding of student learning


As students work in pairs, I will walk around and listen to their conversations. I will also ask to look over their
answers from the homework.
Assessment of student understanding will happen during the whole class discussion.

Assessment of/for learning


I will check student answers from the homework they prepared for class.
Students will have a chance to apply content ideas to new situations by answering the Radiocarbon Pennies Activity
reflection questions. This will help them to self-evaluate their understanding of the content, and I will check student
work the following day to make sure they are on the right track.

Bridge to next lesson


The Radiocarbon Pennies Activity worksheet adds to what students have been learning about evolution, and makes
explicit ties to other material students have been learning. We will be discussing the activity and the answers to the
reflection questions the next day. Students will also be making ties from radiocarbon dating/fossils to problems
scientists encountered in classifying species.