Whales That Walked Discovery Cart Program

Pacific Science Center, 2008
The Whales That Walked Discovery Cart curriculum was specifically designed to accompany the exhibit, Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia. The hands-on activities engage museum visitors in exploring the evolution of whales.

The mission of this cart is to engage museum visitors (ages 15 and up) in investigating some of the major concepts of whale evolution, including using evolution theory as a predictive tool, gathering multiple independent lines of evidence, examining theories of whale evolution, and exploring early whales’ inner ears and ankle bones. The cart program provides visitors with a complementary understanding of biological evolution to that which they will explore in the Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia exhibit.

This curriculum was developed in partnership with exhibit fabricators at Pacific Science Center who created custom manipulatives for the cart, making the experience hands-on and highly interactive. The curriculum can also be enacted independent of the exhibit in order to introduce museum exhibitors in the puzzling phenomenon of whale evolution. Adaptations for younger learners are included.

From wolf-like creatures that walked on four legs to the graceful marine creatures we know today, the morphology of whales has changes considerably over time.

As part of this program, museum visitors are challenged to assemble a whale ear puzzle, configure a whale family tree, and examine whale ankle bones! In the activity A Whale of a Tale, visitors examine field guide entries for primitive and modern whales and use a chronological fossil record to make a prediction about a transitional fossil.

In the Whale Ear Puzzle activity, visitors assemble four whale ear puzzles that shows how the structures of the whale ear evolved over time–from its land mammal ancestor to a modern odontocete–as an example of macroevolution.

In the activity, Ankles and Toes, visitors examine model ankle bones of early whales and modern ungulates (hoofed animals) and compare the DNA sequences of whales with different animals within the Artiodactyls sub-group (a type of even-toed ungulate).  They use multiple lines of evidence to explore the relationship between Cetaceans (modern whales) and Artiodactyls (specifically, hippos). In the Whale Family Tree activity, visitors will interact with a Whale Family Tree Peg Board to describe and make predictions about “sister relationships” and “cousin relationships” in a human family tree and a whale phylogenic tree.

Diagrams by Pacific Science Center design department.


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