Looking for Graphic Presentation

15


Discussion by: Astinscience
Hey everyone,

I’m an 8th grade science teacher. We will be coming up in a couple of months in my curriculum on geologic time and evolution. I have been looking for some sort of a graphic representation of a concept to help my students grasp the idea, and I’m hoping this community might be able to help.

I’ve used, as a lecture tactic, the idea of the hairpin turn from Dawkin’s book. I also discuss the idea of looking at pictures of individuals in adjacent generations compared to many generations apart as a way to describe evolutionary change. My goal is to get my students to understand that our concept of species is more of a snapshot in time, as opposed to a continuous concept through time. That, when considering many generations, its a clearer idea to follow lines of descent.

My thought is a simple demo, using something like Prezi perhaps. Picture a long string of file cards, each with a “picture” of an individual (actual image/artist rendering/simple silhouette, etc). Picking ones next to each other, or a few cards away from each other, shows little change, but picking them far enough apart shows larger and larger changes. When viewed at a great enough remove, we call them different species, even if there is no place along the line between where two cards show that step.

I’m sure you all get the idea as a concept. What I am hoping is that someone might have actually seen something like this, or a similar concept. Some sort of relatively straight forward visual aid to help get this idea across.

I MAY be able to muscle a Prezi into shape to make this happen, but I’m no where near confident of my abilities in that area. 

Hoping for the best here :) Thanks for reading!

15 COMMENTS

  1. Dawkins’ book ‘The Magic of Reality’ uses the example of a post card of a student and his parents up the generations. If you stack the postcards on a long bookshelf, then we see that 10 metres away were looked like monkeys, 100 metres away we looked like fish etc (I don’t remember the actual distances).

  2. If you’d like a suggestion that involves a hands on experience, I use rolls of paper that are typically in a cash register. You can buy twelve packs of them at any office supply store. I give the students two tasks. Their first task is to impose a timeline onto the cashier’s tape. They have to scale it so that 1 cm is equal to one million years. (They can come up with their own scale…. but often they’ll pick a scale that needs 300 feet of tape!!!).

    Once I have the timelines established (we display them to each other and talk about deep time and earth’s history), I distribute a card stock page of biotic events with abiotic events on the back. I challenge the students to color code the two sets of events and assort them (properly) onto the tape (replete with little doodles and drawings.

    We then hang the finished product on the walls and look for patterns.

  3. In reply to #2 by crookedshoes:

    If you’d like a suggestion that involves a hands on experience, I use rolls of paper that are typically in a cash register. You can buy twelve packs of them at any office supply store. I give the students two tasks. Their first task is to impose a timeline onto the cashier’s tape. They have to scale it so that 1 cm is equal to one million years. (They can come up with their own scale…. but often they’ll pick a scale that needs 300 feet of tape!!!).

    Once I have the timelines established (we display them to each other and talk about deep time and earth’s history), I distribute a card stock page of biotic events with abiotic events on the back. I challenge the students to color code the two sets of events and assort them (properly) onto the tape (replete with little doodles and drawings.

    We then hang the finished product on the walls and look for patterns.

    I do a similar exercise. I have a set of laminated poster paper strips with the time scale set, and we go in the hallway and construct a timeline of events. The events are on index cards, and the students have to place them along the timeline. We then take a tour through time.

    What I am looking for is something that specifically addresses the idea of evolution along a single line of descent. I like the postcard idea, I’m just trying to find something digital.

  4. If you go to the old RDFRS site, on June 17, 2012, you’ll find some good information.
    http://old.richarddawkins.net/videos/646265-richard-dawkins-your-185-millionth-great-grandfather-was-a-fish

    My Comment was: If my math is correct, and these (family) photographs were 0.010″ thick, and they were placed on a shelf, it would be about 29.2 miles long. That’s an extensive Family Album, despite only going back to where they would have needed a waterproof camera…. 8-)

    To use the same parent-child snapshot method, with 20 year generations, but just going back 7 million years to our common ancestor with apes, then forward again to present day apes, that would only take a shelf 583 ft long…. 8-)

  5. I poked around for a moment and saw that the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has a cool interactive human evolution timeline.

    Also, years ago, PBS published a video series entitled “Evolution”. If you google it online, there are some supporting activities. (I have the VHS of this stuff!)

    Other than this I am striking out.

  6. The stack of postcards and pictures shows change over time.

    Something that just popped into my head:
    Play the telephone game, also know as Chinese whispers. The twist is that one person starts it off, but in two directions.

    Split the class and let the message pass down the two lines and compare the end results.

  7. In reply to #6 by zengardener:

    The stack of postcards and pictures shows change over time.

    Something that just popped into my head:
    Play the telephone game, also know as Chinese whispers. The twist is that one person starts it off, but in two directions.

    Split the class and let the message pass down the two lines and compare the end results.

    Now that is a good idea Zen! Just as a real life example, during the Falklands War a message was passed back down the line of men struggling towards Port Stanley with their full loads on from the HQ vehicle at the front, by the time it reached us about a mile back the message was “Galtieris dead” to which we reacted by dropping our packs and getting the cigs out. This lasted for about ten minutes until an Officer came running down the line telling everyone to get kitted up again as the message had started the journey as “Aircraft warning red” or air raid imminent.

  8. Whilst not a graphic representation of the evolution of our species I’ve conducted an interesting way for kids to get a grasp on the amount of time life has taken to evolve. This has been done a few different ways by Richard in his TV specials but this could be a fun day out for your students and give them a real sense of the expanse of time involved in regards to life on Earth. Life started approx 3.8 billion years ago so if you convert this into kilometres in the following way and map out a route from start to finish (present day) you can take your students on a “tour of life” with a description of different life forms along the way.
    For instance:
    3.8 Billion years – 38 km from destination (First life/bacteria appear)
    1 Billion years – 10 km
    550 million years – 5.5km (Explosion of life)
    100 million years– 1km
    65 million years (End of Dinosaurs) – 650m
    1 million years– 10m
    100,000 years– 1m
    10,000 years– 10cm
    5,000 years – 5cm from destination – (beginning of recorded Human history)

  9. The mount improbable analogy is a good one. It may help the children grasp the idea that evolution does not work by giant leaps. You could rework it in some way if it seems too complex a notion.

  10. There is a poster from the Open University and the BBC called the Tree of Life. They were giving it away for free a couple of years ago. The images could be cut from this. Here is a link to the online version Tree of Life

    If you cannot use the online version and you cannot get a hard copy any more let me know by private message and I will send you the copy I have?

    On the other hand, I may have got the wrong end of the stick?

  11. While its not an activity, a good graphic representation of the tree of life (or at least 3000 species of it) is the Hillis Plot. You can find the PDF of it for free download on Dr. Hillis’ website. Print it 54″x 54″. You will need to find a local blueprint shop to print that large. We have one mounted on our wall at home.

  12. I have a series of glow-in-the-dark canvases illustrating concepts in astronomy, physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and engineering. It is the core of an ice cream social lecture theme that I hold in a gallery lit mostly by UV light. I first saw this idea in Austin Texas during 1984-85 at an ice cream parlor called “Nothing Strikes Back.”
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.358204624192459.94658.100000087721041&type=3

    If you wish to borrow some of these please let me know. I am not trying to sell anything. Rather I am attempting to provide free fuel for the imagination. If you wish to use these images please do.

    Wil Rohan
    Engineer/Artist
    Pauls Valley, Oklahoma

  13. In reply to #9 by Duncs2677:

    Whilst not a graphic representation of the evolution of our species I’ve conducted an interesting way for kids to get a grasp on the amount of time life has taken to evolve. This has been done a few different ways by Richard in his TV specials but this could be a fun day out for your students and give them a real sense of the expanse of time involved in regards to life on Earth. Life started approx 3.8 billion years ago so if you convert this into kilometres in the following way and map out a route from start to finish (present day) you can take your students on a “tour of life” with a description of different life forms along the way.
    For instance:
    3.8 Billion years – 38 km from destination (First life/bacteria appear)
    1 Billion years – 10 km
    550 million years – 5.5km (Explosion of life)
    100 million years– 1km
    65 million years (End of Dinosaurs) – 650m
    1 million years– 10m
    100,000 years– 1m
    10,000 years– 10cm
    5,000 years – 5cm from destination – (beginning of recorded Human history)

    I’ve tried using a 100x larger scale, 1mm per year. This lets kids find their own ages on a ruler (5 to 15mm, for example) and that of their parents and grandparents (4 to 9 cm or so). Columbus was back about half a meter, Mohammed about one and a half meters and the origins of the stories about Jesus lie 2 meters away. Pyramids and Stonehenge are across the classroom or into the garden at 7 meters or so. You can mark out other interesting events within a kilometer, a million years, in an easy stroll.

    It takes a journey of 65 km, which can be checked on a map to see what town that takes you to. Because that far away is when the dinosaurs became extinct.

    Beyond that requires air travel, where the aircraft becomes a time machine, a billion years is 1000 km, and the entire lifespan of the planet Earth fits roughly onto the coast-to-coast distance for the USA. You could mark significant events on a coast-to-coast road trip, such as when fish grew legs and walked the earth. (I’d like that for a wallchart, if anyone can do one).

    To go even further back in time you’ll need longhaul trips, and the age of the universe maps roughly onto the distance from Cape Town to Chicago, or London to the Falkland Islands, about 13000 km, or 13 billion years.

    Since time beyond one million years is portrayed by two levels of abstraction – first the time/distance mapping of 1mm = 1 year, then the abstraction of real-world distances shown on maps (unless you’re actually making the journey), the Deep Time concept likely won’t suit younger kids. But it is nice to use a scale that lets them see the ages of themselves and their relations on the same scale as the entire universe, and the Age of the Dinosaurs is easily reached on a car journey. Could make a good game for a family car trip – less “are we there yet?” and more “have we reached the Jurassic yet?”

  14. In reply to #15 by OHooligan:

    I too like to think of evolutionary time as a distance scale. I like to think of the 4.5 billion year history of the earth as a long day’s hike of 45km. This is also roughly the length of a marathon. The walk begins with the earth as a ball of molten rock and ends with a brief history of human civilisation as my hand passes over the final 10cm while reaching for my beer (perhaps water for your 8th graders!). As an aid to memory I use features of the hike, such as the time of day, stopping for lunch, being in sight of the pub, etc. on which to map the major events of evolution.

    On this scale the really interesting stuff happens over the last 5km after the Cambrian explosion, and the evolution of humans from the earliest primate ancestor takes place over the last 600 metres. Perhaps this could be turned into an interesting field trip that ends in your class room where you could explore the last 10 metres of history: Homo erectus and their use of fire; the Neanderthals; the migration of Homo sapiens out of Africa; the development of farming and civilisation; and, of course, woolly Mammoths!

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