New biology teaching resources
It can be tough to come up with new and innovative ways to teach topics that you may have taught many times over. Or maybe you are teaching grade 5 science for the first time and need some ideas. I have come up with a list of 4 ideas that utilize primates to explain and expand on some of the main curriculum ideas in the Ontario guidelines for the understanding life systems section of grade 5 science. By using primates as examples to explain the curriculum, the material becomes more relatable as we are primates ourselves.
1. Our digestive system is designed to digest our omnivorous diet. However, other primates digestive tracts look very different depending on their diet. Leaf monkeys have a digestive system similar to a cow, with the stomach having different sections to help break down the tough leaves they eat. Get your students to look at our digestive tract compared to a leaf monkey and have them point out the similarities and differences and hypothesize why the leaf monkey’s would be different based on their diet. You can get your students to point out the different parts of the digestive tract on each.
2. Humans are the only animals that cook their food before eating it. Have your students hypothesize how cooking changes food and what that would mean for our teeth and digestive tract. We have a simpler digestive tract and smaller teeth as cooking our food does most of the processing for us. Our bodies don't have to physically process our food as much compared to our primate relatives.
3. Primate have the largest brain:body ratio, with humans have the biggest of all primates. Compare the brains of monkeys, apes and humans. Have your students try to figure out what parts of the brain are bigger in us compared to other primates. We have a larger frontal and pre-frontal cortex and areas for language not seen in other primates.
4. With their big brains primates can do a lot of amazing things like use tools. Compare tool use in capuchin monkeys and chimpanzees. Have your students discuss how they go about breaking nuts open differently? Is it a matter of intelligence or body size differences?
Hopefully these tips give you some new ideas to explore the amazing world of primates and get your students excited about their grade 5 science class. If you teach other grades check out our tips for grade 9 science, grade 10 science, grade 11 biology and grade 12 biology.
If you want a more in-depth look about the above topics for your students we would be happy to come and give a Primate Tales presentation to your class. Check out our in-class program page for more information and book a program if you are interested.
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