Students will use shared characteristics to create an elephant evolutionary tree using teeth from 4 elephant relatives.
- Designed for group of up to 5 students each
- Grades 3-8 or Ages 8-14
- Activity should take 15-20 minutes to complete
Students are presented with four elephant relatives — an Asian elephant, a woolly mammoth, a Stegomastodon, and an American mastodon. They are asked to hypothesize which are most closely related. Roles are then assigned — field researchers, who report on evidence they "find in the field" (three fossil teeth and a modern Asian elephant tooth), and a lead researcher, who is responsible for organizing data on the evolutionary tree. The team works together comparing key features and working out the evolutionary relationships. Then they revisit their hypothesis, see how their thinking has changed, and they are given a question — when on the tree did adaptations to eating grass arise? — that they use their tree to answer. A fuller elephant tree is then revealed, allowing students to explore the great diversity of the elephant lineage in more detail; with their new tree training, they are able to ask more questions and make new discoveries together.
Download Materials to Use in Your Classroom
You can print and play this activity using a basic color printer and a laminator, or you can choose to produce something a bit more durable and high fidelity with off-the shelf purchases, 3D printer and custom print shop. Find instructions for each option below.
It is advised that no more than five students engage in the activity at a time. Multiple copies may be necessary to have an entire classroom divide into groups that do the activity at the same time.