The Origin & History of Life On Earth Activities for Middle School

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Teaching your middle school students about the origin and history of life on Earth is no small responsibility. This lesson offers some activities that will make your instruction meaningful and memorable.

Teaching Middle School Students About Life

Whether you are a middle school science or social studies teacher, one of your jobs is to help your students understand the origins of life on Earth and the nature of evolution and ecological history. This aspect of your curriculum will involve some serious and complicated issues, and you will want to plan thoughtfully so that your students understand the conceptual gravitas while simultaneously remaining engaged with your instruction.

One way to hold students' attention and keep them learning actively is to incorporate activities into your teaching. The activities in this lesson appeal to a variety of learning styles while helping middle school students learn more about the origin and history of life on Earth.

Visual Activities

This section provides activities well suited to the more visual learners among your students, who benefit from looking at images and drawing as they learn and think.

Geological Images

For this activity, your students can work in groups or with partnerships.

Give each group or pair a series of ten to 20 different photographs, sketches, or paintings of Earth and life on Earth from different periods over the history of geologic time. Ask them to work together to try to put the pictures in order and write small captions for each image, explaining the chronology they came up with. Then, bring students together to share their images and discuss any questions or concepts that came up as they attempted this work.

Comparing Origin Theories

Your students will probably be familiar with the fact that there are different theories about the origin of life on Earth and that this can be a somewhat controversial educational topic.

Ask students to work with partners to complete Venn diagram graphic organizers representing a contrast/comparison of two or three different theories. Then, ask them what they learned from thinking about similarities and differences among perspectives on this theme.

Tactile Activities

Here, you find activities that let your students use their hands and bodies to enhance what they are learning about the origin and history of life on Earth.

Early Earth Diorama

This is a good activity for students to work on in small groups.

Give each group a shoebox or small bin to work with. Have them use clay, art materials, and recycled materials to complete a small model of how Earth looked during a particular time period of their choosing. If you want, you can assign each group a different time or region. When they are finished with their dioramas, host a gallery for them to look at each other's work.

Species Skits

Students should work in pairs or small groups for this activity as well. Assign each pair a species or subspecies to focus on.

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