Grades 6-8 ActivitiesUse these activities to help your students explore how mammals evolved and how incredibly diverse they are. These activities and the Student Worksheet can be adapted to meet your students' interests and abilities
BEFORE YOUR VISIT
New York State Science Core CurriculumClass Discussion: Share the Useful Concepts: Natural Selection and Adaptation section of the Guide with your students. Discuss how evolution has modified mammalian bodies over time. What helped some species survive and caused others to die out?
Major Understanding LE 3.2b
Extinction of a species occurs when the environment changes and the adaptive characteristics of a species are common. Fossils are evidence that a great variety of species existed in the past.
Online Activities:Dive deeper into these concepts by having your students watch the video What Killed the Mammoths? Could It Have Been a Killer Plague?. Or have them play the Layers of Time game to understand how the fossil record was formed.
DURING YOUR VISITIN THE EXTREME MAMMALS EXHIBITION
Use the activities and guiding questions in Sections 1 and 2 of Teaching in the Exhibition in this Guide to guide your students' exploration of mammal evolution, as well as the strategies in Section 9 to support your students' investigation of isolation and adaptation.
NOTE: Students can use the worksheet linked at the top of this page, to further explore these concepts. Provide your students with a copy of the Map of the Exhibition to help them find locations in Extreme Mammals.
IN THE WALLACE WING OF MAMMALS AND THEIR EXTINCT RELATIVES: HALL OF PRIMITIVE MAMMALS (Fourth Floor)
Take a walk back in time! Find the ground sloth, armadillo, and glyptodont fossils. Have students sketch each of these mammal fossils and answer the following questions: When did the mammal live? What are its extreme features? Ask students to read the information on the displays to find out what else scientists know about these mammals. Have them describe one feature of each mammal, the purpose it served, and the evidence that supports their answer. A student worksheet for this activity is available.
Before you leave, stop at the three giant murals painted by Charles R. Knight in 1911. Knight depicted these
ancient animals and environments based on careful study of the fossil record. Point out that artists and scientists both rely on careful study of the fossil record in order to depict and understand the history of life on Earth. Back in the classroom or at home, have the students re-examine their three drawings and consider how they would "flesh out" these animals on the basis of fossil evidence alone.
BACK IN THE CLASSROOMResearch Activity: Direct students to the video Lemurs of Madagascar: Surviving on an Island of Change. Ask students to recall the Extreme Isolation section of the exhibition, which explained how geographic isolation can lead to the evolution of extreme traits. Ask students why it's important for scientists to study how animals adapt to changing environments.