A LESSON IN DRAWING YOUR OWN INFORMED CONCLUSIONS ABOUT NATURE
This exercise is less about being right or wrong and more about observations, doing research, developing hypotheses, and checking those hypotheses against facts to justify them. In many cases, there are, indeed, right and wrong answers. But this lesson requires challenging one’s theories, drawing informed conclusions, and justifying those conclusions with the facts that the students uncover. This means that these conclusions cannot be based on opinion, but rather on factual research—those things that are KNOWN.
In this lesson, we are applying the “art” of making well-informed educated guesses to better understand primate diversity. Nonhuman primates are incredibly diverse in size, shape, and type, as well as the ways that they are “outfitted” for success in their ecosystems. We witness this in the forms of the physical adaptations that Mother Nature bestowed upon them. Let’s explore WHY they have developed these adaptations and HOW they benefit the primate species and their ecosystems.
An Educated Guess is a well-informed guess or estimate based on experience or theoretical knowledge. Scientific conclusions are sometimes the result of some degree of theory—that is, carefully thought-out explanations for observations that are based on and informed by observation, information, and knowledge. Since we can’t exactly know why some species evolved as they did (in Mother Nature’s grand plan), we can gather information based on known entities and conditions to draw informed conclusions. That is the task of these exercises—coming to informed conclusions and being able to justify them with real data.
- How to formulate educated guesses
- About the tremendous diversity of nonhuman primates and their adaptations for survival and success in their ecosystems
- That physical adaptation and lifestyle adaptations are interdependent
- The names of some nonhuman primates
- That many nonhuman primates have more than one common name
- That scientific names never vary
- That primates live in a wide variety of habitats
- That nonhuman primates live within social systems
- That nonhuman primates teach behavior and survival skills to their young
- That, although nonhuman primates have been gifted with physical attributes to ensure their success, 70% are threatened or endangered
- Develop skills in formulating educated conclusions
- Understand that personal opinions are different than fact-based statements
- Discover that the 5-step scientific method for drawing informed conclusions is a solid method for developing theories
- Develop skills in justifying informed conclusions through research and facts
- Research the internet for the most factual data, not just authors’ opinions
- Primate Species Profiles and the dropdown menu items
- African Apes At-a-Glance
- African Monkeys At-a-Glance
- African Prosimians At-a-Glance
- Asian Apes At-a-Glance
- Asian Monkeys At-a-Glance
- Asian Prosimians At-a-Glance
- Latin American Monkeys At-a-Glance
- Ten of the Weirdest Primate Species
- Ten Primate Species You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
- Ten of the Most Endangered Primate Species
- Ten of the Most Well Know Primate Species
- “Peculiar Primates” Fun Facts About These Curious Creatures by Debra Kempf Shumaker. This delightful poem about nonhuman primates highlights their unique adaptations. Informative backmatter provides details about the adaptations featured in the poem and the primates who sport them.
For full descriptions of lesson topics and sample videos, go to the Educated Guesses Introduction page.
In “Physical Adaptation,” we explore the diversity of sizes, shapes, and types of nonhuman primates, as well as the ways in which they are “outfitted” to be successful in their ecosystems. We explore WHY they have developed these adaptations and HOW they benefit the primate species and their ecosystems. While doing so, students will learn about a variety of species and their habitats. There are a few bonus lessons as well, like why nonhuman primates may have multiple common names, but only one scientific name; the rules for writing scientific names (binominal nomenclature); and how biological orders are classified. It’s up to you, the educator, to determine how much of these bonuses you wish to bring to your students based on their ages, grade levels, and educational experiences.
See “Educator’s Notes” (below) for further information about primates’ names and wet noses vs. dry noses.
In “Lifestyle Adaptations,” we explore the diversity of nonhuman primate lifestyles and the physical adaptations that facilitate those lifestyles. We explore WHAT these lifestyle adaptations are, WHY they developed, and HOW they benefit the primate species and their habitats. We explore why their behaviors are designed for those habitats and how their bodies evolved to accommodate them. In this section, we explore types of diets, biological clocks (diurnal/nocturnal), locomotion, social grooming, and primates’ use of nature’s pharmacy.
See Educator’s Notes (below) for pointers regarding the “Nature’s Pharmacy: Self-Anointing lesson.”
Instructions for each lesson appear on the lesson’s page, along with videos, helpful hints, and insights.
Students are instructed to use a 5-step scientific method. See below.
You can modify the depth of research your students will undertake based on their ages and grade levels and by asking more or less complex questions within the topics.
5-STEP SCIENTIFIC METHOD
1. Consider the Question or Questions in the Videos
2. Make Observations
3. Form Your hypothesis
- What’s your initial guess based on your observations?
4. Gather Data
- This is the research step
- Learn about the species in your hypothesis
5. Analyze Your Data and Draw Your Conclusion or Conclusions
- Test your hypothesis against what you learn
- Have you changed your mind? If so, why? If not, why?
ARE THERE RIGHT or WRONG ANSWERS?
As stated in the Introductions, all of these lessons are more about the process of discovery than whether there are right or wrong answers. HOWEVER, for some of the categories, there are, indeed right answers. It’s up to you whether your goal is for students to discover the exact correct answers. We’ll supply them to you so you can decide:
NOTES REGARDING SPECIES’ NAMES:
How to name species can get complicated. It’s not always as straightforward as, say, identifying a monkey as a rhesus macaque. Many species have multiple common names. In some very confusing cases, some species even share common names!
Here’s an example, the ashy red colobus is also called the Ugandan red colobus. When doing research outside of this website, it’s best to look under both names.
A rather extreme example of this is the white-tailed titi monkey, which has an alternate common name, the red titi monkey. Here’s the confusion. The coppery titi also has an alternate common name, the red titi monkey.
What happens when species have multiple common names or share common names? Scientific names, which are written in Latin, clear up the confusion. The scientific names do not vary. That is, there are no alternate scientific names.
We’ve added the buttons below to the Instruction. We’ll leave it up to you to decide how deeply you want to delve into this subject matter based on what you know about your students, how old they are, or how confusing this might be for them. The information is there, but it’s for you to decide whether or not you find it appropriate to use it with your students. Are you okay with them identifying species with their common names only? Do you want to take it up a notch and have them identify the scientific names as well? Our goal is to keep it fun and to keep them focused on the 5-step scientific method so they can logically think through the exercise. You determine whether or not nomenclature is a distraction or an “extra points” benefit.
Click the button to the left below to find out why species have both common names and scientific names. Click the button on the right, below, to learn how species’ names are written.
NOTES FOR THE SELF-ANOINTING LIFESTYLES:
We recommend this exercise for older students. Many of the articles about this topic are in academic papers. They are readable but require higher reading aptitude than lower grade levels. They can discover some information regarding this subject in our Primate Species Profiles, but for the purposes of using the 5-step scientific method, they should do more extensive research via the internet. They can double-check themselves in the Primate Species Profiles, but the profiles might not address self-anointing using that specific terminology.
We have not created lessons for the topics listed below, but they are among those that we brainstormed and selected from. We thought we’d list them here in case you’d like to develop your own lessons based on these topics. Who knows—we might add a few of these in future. If you see one that you’d like us to develop, shoot us an email at the address listed at the bottom of this page.
OTHER POTENTIAL TOPICS FOR PHYSICAL ADAPTATIONS:
- Flexible feet: Primate feet and their dexterity
- Bulbous bellies and poofy pouches: Sacculated stomachs, specialized salivary glands, and cheek pouches
- A tale of tails: Prehensile tails, non-prehensile tails, partially prehensile tails, long tails, short tails, no tails
- Venomous primates? Really? A slow loris’s only protection
- Loud calls: Howler monkeys and the hyoid bones that make them the loudest land mammals, gibbons and their songs, other loud callers
- Colorful coats, like red-shanked douc langur… or not so much like long-tailed macaques, including infant langurs being born different colors than adults—some bright golden, some white or striped
- Tooth combs? Who has them? Why?
OTHER POTENTIAL TOPICS FOR LIFESTYLE ADAPTATIONS:
- Family: Large troops/small family groups/complex fission-fusion societies
- The dating game: monogamy, polygamy, and many more mating styles
- Living in layers: Terrestrial/arboreal/both
- Horizontal leapers/vertical leapers/non-leapers
- Shared latrines: A lemur-specific lesson
Lesson developed by Debra Curtin, 2023