February 12 is Darwin Day (and Lincoln’s birthday) and also the penultimate day of my 7th grade unit on evolution. Throughout this unit I have used a variety of activities and websites to illustrate some of the concepts of evolution. Here is a list of some of the more valuable sites I used in class.
1. Tree of Life – This site has an excellent video that gives a basic breakdown of the evolution of life in about 6 minutes. It also has a cool 3-D interactive that lets students examine some of the branches on the evolutionary tree. This came from Danny Nicholson at The Whiteboard Blog.
2. Evolution in 5 minutes – This is another visually stunning video that shows how simple, ocean dwelling invertebrates evolved into mammals. It has a neat ticker that counts down the years in superspeed fashion to show the changes taking place over millions of years.
3. PBS Evolution Interactive – This site has a simple flash app that shows the different branches of hominids from the early australopithicans to homo sapiens. It gives a good description of their physical traits and brain size. I had my students complete this chart as they went through the site.
4. America Natural History Museum Spectrum of Life – This site has a great interactive showing the biodiversity on earth. Though not as visually stunning as the Tree of Life site, it has a lot more content and more pictures for students to look at and read about.
5. Before and After Humans – This site, from MSNBC, gives some details on the fossil record of human ancestors. It is similar to the PBS site, but gives more details and also provides an imaginative look into the future of human evolution. Though a lot of the ideas are pretty far fetched, my students found them very interesting. This site comes from Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day.
6. Future Humans from Wall-E – I found this clip on You Tube from the movie Wall-E. I used it to help start a debate on the future of human evolution.