From vascular to non-vascular, land plants drastically transformed our planet. Go back in time—before dinosaurs—420 million years ago to learn how they performed this feat, with evidence provided along the way.

About This Video

Grade level: 6-12
Length: 5 minutes
Next Generation Science Standards: HS-ESS2-7; ESS2.D, ESS2.E; Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Video Synopsis
Academy botanist Dr. Nathalie Nagalingum explains how, more than 400 million years ago, early plants played a notable role in adjusting Earth's physical surface as well as our planet's climate. She meets with a peer to discuss the evidence that scientists currently have to support her story.

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Guiding Questions

As you watch the video, consider the following:

  • When did plants first move onto land, and how did their size and structure change over time?
  • What role did early land plants play in changing our planet, both physically and chemically? Try to list at least three examples.
  • How does carbon get "locked up" inside the living tissues of a plant? From where does that carbon originate?
  • How might carbon get trapped in soil?
  • Consider the time scales referenced. How long did it take plants with vascular systems to evolve? How long did it take for plants to change the climate of Earth?
  • What evidence did the scientists present to support their explanation of what happened on Earth millions of years ago? Consider one type of evidence that relates to the past, and another type of evidence that involves making observations of nature in the present day.
  • Do you find the conclusions drawn by the botanist to be compelling? Why or why not?
  • What evidence was referenced, but not shown? How might you research more information to better understand those claims?

Connections to the Next Generation Science Standards

While this video doesn't necessarily cover the following standards in depth, it is a compelling resource you can use to supplement your curriculum that does.

Related Performance Expectation

HS-ESS2-7: Construct an argument based on evidence about the simultaneous co-evolution of Earth's systems and life on Earth.

  • Emphasis is on the dynamic causes, effects, and feedbacks between the biosphere and Earth’s other systems, whereby geoscience factors control the evolution of life, which in turn continuously alters Earth’s surface.

  • Examples include how photosynthetic life altered the atmosphere through the production of oxygen, which in turn increased weathering rates and allowed for the evolution of animal life; and how microbial life on land increased the formation of soil, which in turn allowed for the evolution of land plants.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • ESS2.D: Weather and Climate. Gradual atmospheric changes were due to plants and other organisms that captured carbon dioxide and released oxygen.
  • ESS2.E Biogeology. The many dynamic and delicate feedbacks between the biosphere and other Earth systems cause a continual co-evolution of Earth’s surface and the life that exists on it.

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Evaluate the claims, evidence, and/or reasoning behind currently accepted explanation to determine the merits of the argument.

  • Apply scientific reasoning, theory, and/or models to link evidence to claims to assess the extent to which the reasoning and data support the explanation or conclusion.

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