Teach the Earth > Paleontology > Teaching Activities > Ontogeny


Molly Ward
Museum of the Rockies (through 6/30/09)
Author Profile

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Jun 4, 2009


This activity allows even the youngest of learners to understand what the concept of ontogeny is, relative to humans and also applied to learning about dinosaurs.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



I work as an informal educator in a museum, so I use this activity as part of classes and camps for kids. This activity could also be used by classroom teachers. The activity was designed with younger age groups in mind, but could easily be used or adapted and used for older learners who are new to the topic of ontogeny, as well, such as in an introductory paleontology course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Observation and description skills

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand alone series of exercises.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

ontogeny, ontogenetic series, human growth and development, dinosaur growth and development, inferences based on observations of physical evidence

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

observation and interpretation of physical evidence, analysis of growth trends, application and synthesis of previous and new knowledge

Other skills goals for this activity

observation, description

Description of the activity/assignment

This multi-part activity introduces students to the concept of ontogeny by focusing on human growth series (for relevancy and to help students understand what an ontogenetic series is) and then dinosaur growth series to help students understand how we know what we know about dinosaurs and how we learn from fossils. Students practice observation and description of fossil features and then analyze these observations to summarize growth and development trends. Students may also attempt to infer behavior based on trends observed in growth series.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Assessment for this activity is formative and is done by observation and asking students questions during the course of the activity.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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