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Lesson Plans

Evolution: Its Effect Throughout Geological Time and the Controversy
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for Teachers is divided into four sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the Lesson.
Steps -- Conducting the Lesson.
Extensions -- Additional Activities.
Tips -- Managing Resources and Student Activities.


Student Prerequisites:
Students should have a basic familiarity with evolutionary principles.

  • Poster paper.
  • Markers.
  • A videotape of INHERIT THE WIND (optional).
Computer Resources:
You will need at least one computer with Internet access to complete this lesson. While many configurations will work, we recommend:

  • Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
  • Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM.
  • IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95.

For more information, visit What You Need to Get Connected in wNetSchool's Internet Primer.

The following sites should be bookmarked:

  • Charles Darwin

    A brief biographical essay about the life and works of Charles Darwin.

  • Royal Tyrrell Museum Tour: Evolution

    A description of how Darwin arrived at his theory.

  • The Origin of the Species

    An online version of Darwin's work.

  • Scopes Trial Home Page

    The University of Missouri at Kansas City's compilation of primary and secondary sources about the Scopes trial.

  • Time Scale

    Part of an online tour of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, this geologic time scale lists all divisions of geologic time, explains relative and absolute dating, and defines continental drift.

  • BBC Evolution Web Site: Darwin -- The Man and His Legacy

    A collection of essays that provide an excellent context for Darwin's ideas. Some may be too advanced for the secondary-school level.

  • Life Through Geologic Time

    An interactive chart exploring the different periods of geologic time.

  • UCMP Web Time Machine

    A description of the geologic time periods.

  • Geologic Timelines

    A geologic timeline that compares geologic time to daily time.


  • Break students into groups, depending on your class's computer access. Using the sites below, students should review the basics of Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Each group should write a one-to-two-page summary essay about the theory. The student essays should include explanations of the formation of gradual change in species over time due to natural selection, the evidence Darwin used to develop and support his theory, how the theory relates to the fossil record, and so on.

    The following Web sites may be used:

    Charles Darwin

    Royal Tyrrell Museum Tour: Evolution

    BBC Evolution Web site: Darwin -- The Man and His Legacy

    The Origin of the Species

  • Have students look at the following Web site that deals with the infamous Scopes "Monkey Trial" of 1925, in which famed lawyer Clarence Darrow defended a Tennessee biology teacher charged with teaching Darwin's theory.

    Scopes Trial Home Page

    You might wish to stage a mock trial in the classroom, having students role-play Darrow, Scopes, Bryan, the townspeople, the media, and so on. You can also show the movie INHERIT THE WIND, though it takes some license with the facts and personalities of the actual trial.

  • Have students look at a geologic timeline to see how it relates to the appearance and evolution of different forms of life on Earth. (The timeline should show the Precambrian and Phanerozoic Eons, and the latter's division into three Eras -- Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic -- and 12 Periods -- Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary, and Quaternary.)

    Examples of geologic timelines can be found at the following Web sites:

    Time Scale

    Life Through Geologic Time

    Geologic Timelines

  • Assign each group to be responsible for one of the 12 geologic time periods. (One group should also do the Precambrian Eon.) Have students use the Web sites listed in the Student Pathway, in Organizers for Students, to research what notable organisms and categories of organisms (e.g., invertebrates, fish, birds, mammals) lived in their periods. Ask students to determine the organisms discovered earliest in their periods. Each group should report its findings to the class.

  • Compiling the information from all the groups, have the class create a large flowchart on poster board that shows how life evolved over geologic time from the simplest organisms to those that exist today. Show each geologic period, the organisms that appeared in it, and how each organism fits into the evolutionary story. (Note: some species that lived during some periods -- e.g., the dinosaurs -- became extinct and dropped out of the evolutionary story.)

  • Take a class field trip to a local natural history museum. Students can bring along their geologic time-scale flow charts, compare them to what is on display, and see examples of what they have been learning about.


    Art: Students can construct a chart of geologic time periods and their organisms, with drawings of different species.

    Geography, Art: Students can draw the different stages associated with the original Ur-continent, Pangaea, and its breakup.


    One Computer in the Classroom
    If you have access to one computer in your classroom, you can organize your class in several ways. Divide your class into two groups. Instruct one of the groups to do paper research while the second group is working on the computer. Bring in books, encyclopedias, etc., from the library for the group doing paper research. Lead the group working at the computer through an Internet search or allow the students in the class to take turns. (Always have a set of bookmarks ready for the students before they start working on the computer, in order to show them examples of what to look for.) When the groups have finished working, have them switch places.

    If you have a big monitor or projection facilities, you can do Internet research together as a class. Make sure that every student in your class can see the screen, go to the relevant Web site(s), and review the information presented there. You can also select a search engine page and allow your students to suggest the search criteria. Again, bookmark and/or print the pages that you think are helpful for reference later.

    Several Computers in the Classroom
    Divide your class into small groups. Groups can do Internet research using pages you have bookmarked. Group members should take turns navigating the bookmarked sites.

    You can also set the class up so that each computer is dedicated to certain sites. Students will then move around the classroom, getting different information from each station.

    Using a Computer Lab
    A computer center or lab space, with a computer-to-student ratio of one to three, is ideal for doing Web-based projects. Generally, when doing Web-based research, it is helpful to put students in groups of three. This way, students can help each other if problems or questions arise. It is often beneficial to bookmark sites for students ahead of time.

    Submit a Comment: We invite your comments and suggestions based on how you used the lesson in your classroom.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students