Planet of Life: Creatures of the Skies & When Dinosaurs Ruled: Teacher s Guide

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1 Planet of Life: Creatures of the Skies & When Dinosaurs Ruled: Teacher s Guide Grade Level: 6-8 Curriculum Focus: Earth Science Lesson Duration: Three class periods Program Description Ancient creatures from sea and river blaze a new evolutionary trail with their first pioneering steps on land in this exciting chapter in the story of life. Travel to a time zone millions of years old the era When Dinosaurs Ruled and the heavens introduced Creatures of the Skies. Onscreen Questions and Activities Segment 1, Planet of Life: Creatures of the Skies Pre-viewing questions: o Discuss what you already know about how birds are uniquely adapted for flight. Compare the body structures of birds with those of insects. o As you watch the program, keep track of the various explanations regarding the origin of birds and the evolution of feathers. Decide which theory you find most acceptable. Be prepared to defend your position. Post-viewing questions: The program discusses a fossil bird found in 1992 called Sinoraus. Weigh the evidence provided by this fossil. Using this example and others from the documentary, what is your hypothesis about the evolution of birds? Activity: Use magazines and on-line resources to assemble a history of fossil discoveries related to the evolution of birds. Then create a time line that illustrates the most important discoveries and the significance of each. Segment 2, Planet of Life: When Dinosaurs Ruled Pre-viewing questions: o What do you already know about the environment on Earth during the reign of the dinosaurs? What kind of plant life existed? What about animal life? o As you watch the documentary, pay attention to the relationship between the environmental conditions and the plant and animal life that thrived. Post-viewing questions: As a class, brainstorm some possible environmental factors that could have major impacts on the evolution of organisms today. How could humankind influence the outcome?

2 Planet of Life: Creatures of the Skies & When Dinosaurs Ruled: Teacher s Guide 2 Activity: Gather samples of angiosperms and analyze their characteristics. Determine how each trait aids the plant s survival. Then design your own future plant species. Be able to explain how it has adapted to its environment. Lesson Plan Student Objectives Students will understand: Dinosaurs inhabited Earth (about 250 million years ago to about 65 million years ago) during the Mesozoic age. The Mesozoic age is divided into three periods: the Triassic period, the Jurassic period, and the Cretaceous period. The plants and animals on Earth differed during these three periods. Changes in plant life affected the development of animal life. Materials Planet of Life: Creatures of the Skies & When Dinosaurs Ruled video and VCR, or DVD and DVD player Research materials on dinosaurs and other plants and animals of the Mesozoic age Computer with Internet access Art materials Large sheets of brown and blue construction paper Tape or a stapler Procedures 1. Introduce the activity by reviewing with students what they have learned about dinosaurs and the Mesozoic age. They should know that the Mesozoic age, or age of dinosaurs, began about 250 million years ago and ended about 65 million years ago. Tell students that the Mesozoic age is divided into three periods: the Triassic period, the Jurassic period, and the Cretaceous period. The plants and animals on Earth differed during these three periods. 2. Have students do research to find out more about the plants and animals of the Triassic period, the earliest period of the Mesozoic age. Guide their research by having them focus on the following questions: What kinds of plants and animals inhabited Earth during the Triassic period?

3 Planet of Life: Creatures of the Skies & When Dinosaurs Ruled: Teacher s Guide 3 How did Earth s atmosphere during the Triassic period differ from the present atmosphere? When did flowering plants first appear? What affect did the appearance of flowering plants have on the dinosaurs of that period? Encourage students to find out the sizes of the plants and animals they discover and to include visual representations of plants and animals in their notes. 3. From the students research, compile a class list of plants and animals of the Triassic period. 4. Assign each student or pair of students one plant and one animal to study. Students could also choose their own plants and animals, making sure not to duplicate each other s choices. 5. Tell students they will be drawing pictures of their plants and animals and that their pictures will become part of a Triassic scene on the bulletin board. Before they begin, work with the class to decide on a scale so that all the plants and animals in the scene will be sized appropriately in relation to each other. Students should realize that some plants will have to be tiny in order to appear in the same scene with a gigantic dinosaur. 6. Have students draw, color, and label their Triassic plants and animals. 7. Line a bulletin board with brown construction paper, representing soil, on the bottom and blue paper, representing the sky, on top. Have students tape or staple their labeled drawings to the bulletin board. 8. Invite students to present the characteristics of their plants and animals to the class. Ask them to explain, based on their research, whether or not their chosen plants and animals successfully adapted during the Triassic period and hypothesize why. 9. Have students repeat the activity for the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Discussion Questions 1. List and discuss adaptations of flowering plants that led to their worldwide abundance at the end of the Jurassic period. Evaluate the ability of the dinosaurs to adapt to these changes. 2. An explosion of insect diversity seemed to correlate with the abundance of flowering plants. Debate whether insect abundance led to angiosperm abundance or vice versa. Be sure to support your position with research-based arguments. 3. Why do you think triceratops dominated the Cretaceous period? What adaptation helped this dinosaur survive in the changing environment? 4. The asteroid hypothesis, first presented by Luis Alvarez, became a theory after evidence from a variety of sources supported the original observations. Describe what you know about the research that supports this theory and debate its validity using supporting evidence. 5. The explosion of Mount St. Helens could have been as devastating to its ecosystem, on a small scale, as an asteroid impact was on a large scale to world ecosystems. Consider the rebirth of

4 Planet of Life: Creatures of the Skies & When Dinosaurs Ruled: Teacher s Guide 4 Mount St. Helens and compare it with theories about the changes after the Cretaceous extinction. As a group, make a list of similarities and differences. 6. Discuss some possible abiotic (nonliving) factors that could have major impact on the evolution of organisms today. Could mankind direct the outcome? Assessment Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson. 3 points: Student s drawings accurate and carefully executed; descriptions accurate and clearly presented; explanations logical and based on scientific evidence. 2 points: Students drawings fairly accurate; descriptions adequate; explanations lacking in logic or evidence. 1 point: Students drawings inaccurate; descriptions adequate; explanations incomplete and lacking evidence. Vocabulary angiosperms Definition: Flowering plants any of a class (Angiospermae) or division (Magnoliophyta) of vascular plants (as magnolias, grasses, oaks, roses, and daisies) that have the ovules and seeds enclosed in an ovary, form the embryo and endosperm by double fertilization, and typically have each flower surrounded by a perianth composed of two sets of floral envelopes comprising the calyx and corolla. Context: Angiosperms first appeared at the end of the Jurassic period. gymnosperm Definition: Any of the class (Gymnospermae) of woody vascular seed plants that produce naked seeds not enclosed in an ovary. Context: Gymnosperms produce seeds in cones. herbivore Definition: A plant-eating animal. Context: Most Triassic dinosaurs were plant eaters or herbivores. Jurassic Definition: The period of the Mesozoic era between the Triassic and Cretaceous periods or the corresponding system of rocks marked by the presence of dinosaurs and the first appearance of birds. Context: Dinosaurs became increasingly abundant during the Jurassic period.

5 Planet of Life: Creatures of the Skies & When Dinosaurs Ruled: Teacher s Guide 5 Pangaea Definition: The hypothetical land area believed to have once connected the landmasses of the southern hemisphere with those of the northern hemisphere. Context: During the late Paleozoic era, most of the land was joined in one supercontinent known as Pangaea. pistil Definition: A single carpel (one of the ovule-bearing structures in a flowering plant) or group of fused carpels usually differentiated into an ovary, style, and stigma. Context: The pistil of a flower contains the ovary. sauropods Definition: Any of a suborder (Sauropoda) of four-footed, herbivorous dinosaurs with a long neck and tail, a small head, and five-toed limbs. Context: Giant sauropods probably used their long necks to reach leaves high in trees. tree ferns Definition: Any of various ferns (especially in the families Cyatheaceae and Marattiaceae) resembling a tree with woody stems. Context: Giant tree ferns grew in the coal forest of the Carboniferous period. Triassic Definition: The earliest period of the Mesozoic era or the corresponding system of rocks marked by the first appearance of dinosaurs. Context: The first dinosaurs appeared in the Triassic period. triceratops Definition: Any of a genus (Triceratops) of large, herbivorous, Cretaceous dinosaurs with three horns, a bony hood or crest on the neck, and hoofed toes. Context: Large herds of triceratops grazed during the Cretaceous period. Academic Standards Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit This lesson plan addresses the following national standards: Science Life Science: Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment.

6 Planet of Life: Creatures of the Skies & When Dinosaurs Ruled: Teacher s Guide 6 Science Life Science: Understands biological evolution and the diversity of life. Science Earth Science: Understands Earth's composition and structure. National Academy of Sciences The National Science Education Standards provide guidelines for teaching science as well as a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate for students in grades K-12. To view the standards, visit This lesson plan addresses the following science standards: Life Science: Diversity and adaptations of organisms Support Materials Develop custom worksheets, educational puzzles, online quizzes, and more with the free teaching tools offered on the Discoveryschool.com Web site. Create and print support materials, or save them to a Custom Classroom account for future use. To learn more, visit

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