M u s e u m  C r e a t e d  L e s s o n

The Burgess Shale: historic and scientific explorations

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Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario

Introduction to Burgess Shale
High on a mountain ridge in Canada’s spectacular Yoho National Park in British Columbia is one of Earth’s most important fossil deposits: the Burgess Shale. Preserved with exquisite detail within the rock layers for the last half-billion years are the remains of soft-bodied and often bizarre animals and algae dating from the Cambrian period.

Below are five lesson plans created for the Burgess Shale: historic and scientific explorations virtual exhibit. Three lessons focus on the fossil record and students learn science concepts such as the process of fossilization, food webs, and biodiversity. Two lessons examine the technological innovation of the panoramic camera and the historic explorations that connect events, places and people which made the discovery of the Burgess Shale possible.

Clicking on "View the Learning Object" will take the user to a detailed lesson plan.
Marella splendens Activity
Students will examine the common Burgess Shale arthropod Marrella splendens. They will learn how fossils are formed, why the fossilization seen in the Burgess Shale is extremely unusual, and why sites like the Burgess Shale provide a wealth of biological and ecological information about ancient life.
Marrella splendens - recreating life during the Cambrian Period
The Burgess Shale is famous for the exquisite preservation of its soft-bodied fossils dating from the Cambrian period.
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Anomalocaris canadensis Activity
Students will study the largest known predator from the Burgess Shale - Anomalocaris canadensis, and discover the importance of predators like Anomalocaris canadensis in driving the diversification seen in the Burgess Shale community.
Anomalocaris canadensis - one hundred years of interpreting the Burgess Shale fossil record
Over the past century, our view of Anomalocaris has changed from it being a shrimp to the largest know Cambrian predator.
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Opabinia regalis Activity
Students will learn about the bizarre Burgess Shale predator Opabinia regalis and discover the significance of the fossils of the Burgess Shale as related to the diversity of life found within their Cambrian sea-bed community, and their relevance to living animals today.
Opabinia regalis - classifying the bizarre creatures found in the Burgess Shale
This bizarre fossil’s early reconstruction resulted in laughter. Despite being wildly different from modern animals, these strange Cambrian fossils help explain the diversity of today’s animals.
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Innovative photography in the Rocky Mountains
Students will examine technological advances, in this case the use of panoramic photography that promoted changes to western Canada.
Innovative photography in the Rocky Mountains
Technological innovations supported the scientific explorations of the Canadian Rockies and the fossils of the Burgess Shale.
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A tale of western expansion and scientific exploration
Students will explore how the history of the region has influenced Canadian culture and identity.
Students will examine factors that led to the settlement of the Canadian west and explore technological achievements.
A tale of western expansion and scientific exploration
The discovery of the Burgess Shale fossils near the end of the nineteenth century is a direct result of Canada’s western expansion through its railroad project.
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Learning Objectives

The five lesson plans are designed for Grade 10 (secondaire 4), Grade 11 (secondaire 5), and Grade 12 (CEGEP) science and history students. The plans are designed to work with provincial and territorial curricula.

The plans were written by the teachers at the Royal Ontario Museum who contributed to the Learning Object Collections.

Each learning object collection provides clear step-by-step instructions based on the information presented in that learning module. Learning objectives specific to that lesson are also presented.