This video segment, adapted from NOVA, examines one method scientists use to understand ancient climate conditions in Africa.
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The video is not of sufficient resolution for classroom projection. Students might want to watch it individually on their computers. It can be download through free registration with Teachers' Domain.
The short video gives a good example of how scientists use fossil evidence to develop climate reconstruction for a region.
The video includes a background essay, discussion questions, teaching tips and connections to standards.
To test the idea that eastern Africa had undergone rapid swings in climate - from wet to dry to wet again - over a period that began 10 million years ago, German scientists study fossils of tiny one-celled aquatic organisms called diatoms.
The layers of diatom fossils in eastern African rock formations suggest that this part of Africa experienced wet and dry periods over time, supporting a new idea that climatic variability may have shaped human evolution.
The resource includes extensive teaching tips on its webpage.
Video can be used as a hook at the beginning of a lesson about paleoclimatology but should not be used to illustrate the science of diatoms.