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Lesson summary for:
Names, they are a-changing


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The popular press often describes scientific controversies regarding which species ancient hominin fossils represent and how they are related to one another. How should students interpret the frequent name changes experienced by our extinct relatives? What should they make of headlines that trumpet major revisions of the branching patterns on our limb of the tree of life? This article will help teachers develop instruction surrounding these issues, discourage misconceptions, and help students interpret media coverage in light of the process of science.
This article appears at SpringerLink.

Evolution: Education and Outreach

Grade level:

30 minutes

Teaching tips:
This article is written for teachers and comes with links to additional examples, supplementary information, and classroom tips. It is also available as a pdf at http://www.springerlink.com/content/65508w22h2451543/fulltext.pdf

Correspondence to the Next Generation Science Standards is indicated in parentheses after each relevant concept. See our conceptual framework for details.

  • The fossil record provides evidence for evolution.

  • The fossil record documents the biodiversity of the past.

  • Populations, not individuals, evolve.

  • Scientific knowledge is open to question and revision as we come up with new ideas and discover new evidence. (P4, P6, NOS3)

  • Accepted scientific theories are not tenuous; they must survive rigorous testing and be supported by multiple lines of evidence to be accepted. (NOS2, NOS4)

  • Scientists use fossils (including sequences of fossils showing gradual change over time) to learn about past life.

  • Classification is based on evolutionary relationships.

  • There is variation within a population. (LS3.B)

  • Authentic scientific controversy and debate within the community contribute to scientific progress. (P7)

Teacher background:

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