Up to 32 students

Three 45-60 minute sessions


Mass extinctions happen on the planet periodically. The most famous of mass extinctions was 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs were eradicated along with a great amount of other life. Though this was not the biggest mass extinction ever, the largest mass extinction happened at the end of the Permian in the Paleozoic. The ecological niches that were left empty by nearly 57% of families and 87% of all genera being wiped out, thus allowing for the development of new organisms that became the dinosaurs, reptiles, amphibians and our ancestors, the mammals. Mammals did not take reign over their environments until the dinosaurs went extinct.

Learning Objections:

1. Expand upon base knowledge of mass extinctions.

2. Understand that mass extinctions occur periodically through out time.

3. Mass extinctions may lead to evolution of new organisms.

4. The extinctions of the dinosaurs was not the biggest mass extinction event.

5. Introduce students to ideas on our current Holocene mass extinction event (optional)

Guiding Questions:

What is a mass extinctions? When do mass extinctions happens? How do these happen? Are there benefits to a mass extinction event?


Geologic Time Scales showing the points of mass extinctions (Pick 4-5 of the greatest like the Ordovician, Permian, K-T, etc) Packets of information about the causes for each group


Introduce and define mass extinction to the class, have class separate into groups to work on a team presentation about their mass extinction.

Since there are numerous theories for each mass extinction the students should look at the data available to them, research more should they chose, and come to a consensus as a group which one they think most likely happened.

Students will present to the whole class each of the theories, why or why they did not chose that theory to be the cause of the mass extinction. This presentation can be a powerpoint, video, written report or art project; but must display work from everyone within the group. This project takes the place of a regular unit exam.

Session 1: Give out the above Assignment and class should discuss and reach consensus

Session 2: Continued discussion, research or work on presentation together in class

Session 3: Presentations

New York State Scope and Sequence

Intermediate and High School Science Standards

Physical Setting:

Key Idea 1.2c, 1.2h - 1.2j

Living Environment:

Key Idea 1.1b - 1.1f, 3.1a - 3.1g, 3.1j - 3.1l, 6.1d - 6.1e, 6.3b - 6.3c

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