Living Fossils is a 274-page hardback textbook with over 700 photographs. (A
paperback edition is available as well.) Designed for students in grades 7 to
12, it is the second volume in the series titled Evolution:
The Grand Experiment.
Dr. Werner, an emergency room physician and scientific researcher, attempts to
solve the evolution controversy by reviewing thousands of fossils from the dinosaur
era and comparing them to the animals and plants of today. The Teacher's Manual
has perforated pages for easy removal. Each chapter has three unique tests and
keys. Dr. Werner also wrote a purpose for each chapter and guidelines for the
class discussion for each chapter.
The Teacher's Manual suggests the following workflow: the teacher reads the purpose of the chapter in the Teacher's Manual; the teacher leads students in Class Discussion Questions; the students watch the DVD and then read the chapter; then the students receive the Objectives of the Chapter worksheet and take the exam. This process would work for an individual child as well as in a small group setting. Even if you do not use all of the class discussion questions, they will give you a starting point. Also, the objectives handout for each chapter helps to guide an independent learner through the textbook. We did not receive the DVD. As of this review, it is still in production.
To give you a feel for the book, I will describe Chapter 20: Birds. The textbook opens with a beautiful picture of a penguin. Then Dr. Werner discusses whether modern types of birds were living at the same time as dinosaurs. Three professors are quoted; and owls, penguins, flamingos, avocets, albatross, ducks, and loons are discussed briefly, accompanied by photographs. Each animal has its common name, genus, and species written next to the photograph, along with the location of the animal or plant. Other chapters show fossils along with a modern-day plant or animal that appears to be very similar.
Teaching children of different ages about science can be daunting. The older ones need to learn a growing scientific vocabulary while the preschoolers want to look at picture books and participate in experiments. My kindergartener opened up Living Fossils and loved looking at all of the colorful photographers. I do not think that I own a textbook with so many photographs. She could clearly see the fossils and the living organisms. The elementary aged children enjoyed the photographs, the narrative content, and the scientific names. When they grow into teenagers, we will be able to pull out the Objectives handouts and the tests to get even more out of the book.
The Teacher's Manual was a great bonus. Sometimes I don't purchase a teacher's manual because I am very familiar with a subject or because I think I can create tests for my student just as well as the publisher can. However, this manual is worth the extra money. It is concise and easy to use, and it will keep you organized as you use the textbook. As a former classroom teacher, I liked the student test record in the teacher's manual. As a potential co-op teacher, I appreciated the detailed class discussion section. Here's how the textbook describes the teacher's manual: "The entire teaching program is a turnkey system and does not require scientific expertise to teach the course."
The first few chapters were my favorite. The first chapter discusses Dr. Werner's journey. He began as a young man believing in evolution. Then a challenge from a classmate sparked a lifelong quest for the truth. The third chapter was about how organisms are named. I found it fascinating that there were fossilized animals and plant life that looked very, very similar to modern day animals and plants. Science is not my favorite topic, but it is my son's favorite topic. So I do everything that I can to become a better teacher of the subject. I had many "aha" moments while using this book.
Dr. Werner is a brilliant man. He received his doctoral degree in medicine at age 23. In my opinion, brilliant people have creative ways of thinking. Although the textbook had a Table of Contents, the actual chapters were difficult to follow at times. I imagine it was because there are so many photographs and so many things to take in. The Teacher's Manuel helped to organize the chapters for me.
This book discusses evolution in a scientific fashion but does not introduce religion to the discussion. I appreciated this because the evidence shows a creator without mentioning His name. My friends who do not believe in a creator (but wonder about evolution and fossils) would feel comfortable reading this book. The last question asked in the book is: "Has the theory of evolution been verified or has it been falsified by comparing life today to the fossil record? What do you think?"
Excellent work, Dr. Werner! Living Fossils allows those of us who are not scientists to see the evidence for ourselves.