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Prehistory Web Quest

This WebQuest is a research-based project on pre-history. Students are in groups of five and each researches one specific hominid in the evolutionary line. They learn about lifestyles, achievements, and development; how geography and climate contributed to all three; and probable causes for their eventual extinction. The project is broken into two phases. Phase 1 involves completing a map showing the locale(s) and migration patterns (if applicable) of the specific hominids. Phase 2 is the actual research on their hominid. Students read articles listed on the WebQuest and answer questions. Once research is completed, the students get together in groups of like species. They share and compile information and put together a lesson using an overhead map showing the species location. They use the map and information to teach the rest of the class about their hominid. As each lesson is taught (in species order), the students have a large map that they fill in. The result is an overview map that shows areas and migration patterns of the five hominids. Next they get into their original groups (one student per hominid species). If you have time, they should write a paper together on all five species and their development. If not, have each student write their species report and then share it with their group. Each group member has to read, edit, and comment on their peers’ papers. The final product is the U-book, which comprises the five edited papers.

Subject Area
Social Studies

Grade Level


Students learn how geography and climate determine the lives of early hominids, the characteristics of hunter-gatherer societies, how animals affected the lives of early hominids, and how hominids overcame their physical environment. They learn that the life of early hunter-gatherer societies was most influenced by their physical environment, and what distinguished Homo Sapiens from other hominids, and that the evolutionary process that produced Homo Sapiens involved not only anatomical changes and tool-making skills, but also the emergence of social communities that consciously shared a life of symbols, ceremonies, and aesthetic expression.

Internet Used
The entire research process is completed on the Internet. WebQuests are designed with student safety and accurate sources in mind. Students only use sites that have been set up by the teacher. This ensures they are getting valid information. The guided questions for each species give the students specific topics within articles to look for.

Materials Used
Required materials include computers with Internet access and scanners, Front Page, Word, Note Pad and U-Book Software (creates E-Books from Notepad).

Standards Addressed
Students utilize historical thinking, problem-solving and research skills to maximize their understanding of civics, history, geography and economics. They demonstrate knowledge of world history in order to understand life and past events and how they relate to the present and the future. They apply knowledge of spatial relationships and other geographic skills to understand human behavior in relation to the physical and cultural environment.

Students write collaborative U-Books (e-books) which are posted on the school website . They create maps on their particular hominid species, and one large map encompassing all five species. There is a final test consisting of a partial outline needing completion, an essay question relating to man’s development, and a map.

Students Involved
CMS has an ethnically diverse population, with an especially large Asian/Indian representation. Classes are mixed ability- wise. There are inclusion classes with up to nine special ed students.

Teacher Tips
The unit needs updating as sites come and go. Each student needs access to a computer and the Internet, though they can pair up and have collaborate on the reading/note-taking. If you have an odd number of students, you can double up on a species and either have that pair work together or compare their findings and decide how to combine them. It is beneficial if parents come in to help srudents read, decipher, and take notes.

Overall Value
This unit allows creativity and a learning experience different from the regular classroom in that students collect facts, but also read individual accounts of those who live very different lives from them.

Elizabeth McNamara

Elizabeth McNamara has been a teacher in New Jersey’s West Windsor-Plainsboro School District for 14 years. She earned a Bachelor of Music Degree from the North Carolina School of the Arts and a Masters in Music from Queens College. She has completed post graduate teaching courses at Rider University and web design courses at Rutgers University. For the past 7 years she has taught 6th grade Ancient History. She has served on the district Social Studies curriculum committee for the past 10 years. In addition to the Prehistory Web Quest, she has also designed one about Alexander the Great and has a third in progress on the facets of early civilizations. She has written 5 curriculum related plays which her students have performed over the past several years.


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