The Oak Stands Tall: Lesson Plan

North Carolina’s mountains are a testing ground in restoring the mighty oak forest.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • 8.L.4.2 — Explain the relationship between genetic variation and an organism’s ability to adapt to its environment.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will describe ways in which genetic variation enables a species to survive.

Essential Questions

  1. What elements are essential to natural selection?
  2. Why do the traits of a species change over time?
  3. What role does DNA play in an organism’s development?

Engage

Students will watch the NC Science Now video The Oak Stands Tall to learn about the genetic characteristics that enable oak trees to survive fires that kill other trees, bushes and shrubs.

After students have watched the video, discuss the following questions in class:

  1. According to the video, what are three possible reasons that oak trees are in decline in the southern Appalachians?
  2. What are two benefits of prescribed forest fires?
  3. Why are oak trees more likely to benefit from planned forest fires than maple trees?
  4. Judging from the context of the video, what are the meanings of “top-killed,” “regeneration layer,” and “overstory layer?" 

Explore

Students will learn some basic facts about evolution through watching the video Evolution 101.

After students have watched the video, discuss the following questions in class: 

  1. What did Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace discover about evolution?
  2. How might you illustrate relationships between different species in a tree? What criteria might you use to organize species in a tree?
  3. What elements are essential to natural selection?
  4. What factors determine whether a species is fit to survive? Describe an example of a trait that is often considered weak but could also be advantageous.

Explain

Students will learn more about the ways in which species adapt to their environments through genetic variation by watching the video DNA Spells Evolution.

After students have watched the video, discuss the following questions in class:

  1. What role does DNA play in an organism’s development?
  2. Why do the traits of a species often change over time?
  3. What determines whether a mutation is passed on to later generations?
  4. How do you suppose changes in DNA lead to speciation?
  5. The more time that has passed since two species split from one another, the more different their DNA will be. Why?

Extend

Additional Links:

Evaluate

Choosing either a three paragraph essay or a visual presentation, students will research and illustrate or describe the similarities and differences in the evolution of maple and oak trees.