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These notes explain how to run the ‘Highlighting Important Stages in Evolution’ activity ... - page 1 / 11





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These notes explain how to run the ‘Highlighting Important Stages in Evolution’ activity in class. They talk you through using the interactive Tree of Life, provide answers to the student questions and illustrate curriculum links. NB: You will need to have Flash 10 installed on your computer to perform these tasks.

Aims of activity: To encourage students to explore the Tree of Life interactive and video and to become familiar with the phylogenetic relationships among animals.

Learning objectives:


To appreciate the thinking underpinning the classification of animals.


To consider the strengths and limitations of this structure of the Tree of Life as a metaphor for the development and divergence of species.


To appreciate key developments in animals’ evolutionary history and to understand the significance of these stages.


To understand that the environment and conditions at various times in Earth’s history have favoured the selection of living things that has taken place.


To be able to visualise the relationships between the phyla and important subgroupings of animals.


The Tree of Life activity should provide students with insight into the relationships between species of life on Earth, both today and the past. The activity provides a structure and an incentive for students to explore the Tree of Life interactive and video, which can be streamed and downloaded from www.wellcometreeoflife.org. You can watch the video by clicking on the ‘video’ link and explore the interactive via the ‘interactive’ link. You can find a quick guide to using the interactive Tree of Life by clicking on the question mark icon in the interactive. This will show you how to get images, information and web links about the living things featured, as well as how to find common ancestors of any two living things you select. It explains how to change views of the interactive so you can see branches in proportion to length of time, relationships between branches, and links between different living things. You can also switch back and forth between the interactive and the video.

It is suggested that teachers use the activity to discuss the mechanism of evolution with their students.

Materials: Interactive whiteboard for viewing Tree of Life video and exploring Tree of Life interactive; computers with fast access to the internet; student sheet (one per student).

Time: 100 minutes


Show the Tree of Life video.


Discuss the history of classification of living things, including the role of Linnaeus and the impact of knowledge derived from modern genetics.


Given that evolution is a continuum of development, ask students to consider the challenges it poses in attempting to place individual species in coherent groups.


Critically evaluate the Tree of Life as presented and make references to other ways of depicting the relationships between species.

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