Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The Cambrian Explosion of Life with Paleontologist Karma Nanglu

A Smithsonian Science How Live Webcast, March 12, 2020, at 11AM and 2PM EDT
A man leaning against a rock face while wearing a helmet and backpack. Mountains are in the background.
Paleontologist Karma Nanglu working in the field. Photo courtesy of Karma Nanglu.

Program Details

  • March 12, 2020
  • Shows stream at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EDT and are 30 minutes long.
  • The program is free, but registration is requested.
  • Sign Up: 11 a.m. | 2 p.m.


Over half a billion years ago there was an explosion of life on Earth, the “Cambrian Explosion,” when most major animal groups first appeared in the fossil record. Go behind the scenes of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History with Paleontologist Karma Nanglu to explore fossils from this time period and learn how and why scientists study these fossils to understand life on Earth today. Karma will give your students a chance to compare fossils with their modern relatives to make predictions themselves. He will introduce students to a group of specimens he studies, called hemichordates, and will reveal his discoveries about these worms and what they reveal about our own evolutionary past.

Throughout the broadcast, Karma will take questions from your students via text chat and there will be opportunities for students to share what they think using live polls.

This webcast supports learning standards in Life Science and Earth Science. See the complete list of standards alignment.

How to Participate

  • Bookmark this page! This is where the live event will happen on March 12, 2020, at 11 a.m. and then again at 2 p.m. EDT.
  • During the live show, your students will be interacting with the scientist through a chat window on this page.
  • See the Science How Tech Guide for instructions on preparing for and participating in a webcast. This guide includes recommended viewing guidelines if you’re participating with a group of students.
  • Still have questions? Want to see your students featured on Science How? Email us at

Teaching Resources

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Life Science

3rd Grade

  • 3-LS3-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence that plants and animals have traits inherited from parents and variation of these traits exists in a group of similar organisms.
  • 3-LS3-2 Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment
  • 3-LS4-1 Analyze and interpret data from fossils to provide evidence of the organisms and the environments in which they lived long ago.
    • Disciplinary Core Idea, LS4.A: Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity
      • Some kinds of plants and animals that once lived on Earth are no longer found anywhere (3-LS4-1)
      • Fossils provide evidence about the types of organisms that lived long ago and also about the nature of their environments. (3-LS4-1)
  • 3-LS4-4 Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change. 
    • Disciplinary Core Ideas, LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
      • When the environment changes in ways that affect a place’s physical characteristics, temperature, or availability of resources, some organisms survive and reproduce, others move to new locations, yet others move into the transformed environment, and some die. (3-LS4-4)

4th Grade

  • 4-LS1-1 Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

5th Grade

  • 5-LS2-1 Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
    • Disciplinary Core Idea, LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
      • The food of almost any kind of animal can be traced back to plants. Organisms are related in food webs in which some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants.

Grades 6-8

  • MS-LS4-1 Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.
  • MS-LS4-2 Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships.

Earth Science

4th Grade

4-ESS1-1 Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers to support an explanation for changes in a landscape over time.

Grades 6-8

MS-ESS1-4 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence from rock strata for how the geologic time scale is used to organize Earth’s 4.6-billion-year-old history.


Resource Type
Videos and Webcasts
Grade Level
Learning Standards
Next Generation Science Standards
Earth Science, Life Science, Paleontology