3. Walking Whales


Students will use the information they have learned about the evidence scientists use to prove the theory of evolution in a real life look at an authentic question about evolution in whales.
Intro to the Lesson:  Students are presented with the question on whether or not Whales evolved from land mammals to become marine mammals.  A teacher may chose to keep this very vague so students will learn and answer more of their own questions as they go through the process.


  1. picture of a whale
  2. Pictures of the different whale ancestor fossils.  This can be found with textbook or online. (as an extension these could be cut prior to the lesson for students to put in order chronologically how they believe whales evolved.)
  3. Partner Reading Packet
  4. Students copy of their textbook (this particular one uses Holt California Life Science see paper citations.)
  5. I know this isn’t a “material” but it is a suggested to have students broken into reading partners prior to this lesson. So a partner list.

The Lesson:  

  1. Students break into reading partners, I base these off of reading abilities by keeping my top readers with my middle readers and my other middle readers with the lower readers in my class, so the reading discrepancy is not too large between the partners.  
  2. Students presented with the problem of a scientist ( I may introduce the actual scientist, or make this part up) finding links to whales once being land animals.  
  3. Students use a Guided Partner reading from the textbook to support whether or not they found evidence supports if whales were once land mammals or not.  This guide is included at the end, and can be used with Holt Life Science textbook.
  4. Students write a response to what they learned, by comparing the common ancestors of the present day whale, and putting them in chronological order.  They then explain their reasoning and what they think about the idea of whales evolving from land mammals.

Presenting a real problem and guided partner read idea from McCallum, Rick and Arthur Beauchamp, workshop on Literacy in a Science Classroom.  Given on March 9th at the Hands on Lab at CSUC.
Gingerich, Phillip. Research on the Origin and Early Evolution of Whales (Cetacea). 
Thewissen, J. G.M., Whale Origins research.