Shape of Life is a series of FREE short classroom videos that beautifully illustrate the evolution of the animal kingdom on planet earth. Based upon an original PBS Series, Shape of Life is especially designed for students and teachers who want a first-hand account of how animals adapt and thrive. The series is NGSS aligned with exquisite focus on diversity, biodiversity, adaptability, body structure, design, behaviors, and the innovative scientists who explore these creatures.


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News from Shape of Life

New Resource! ORIGINS Animal Eve: Sponges

Origins: Animal Eve, a newly revised chapter from The Shape of Life book, is a comprehensive resource on sponges.

For most of human history we weren’t even sure that sponges were animals. Two thousand years ago, they were listed among Aristotle’s ‘Intermediates,’ somewhere between plants and animals. His confusion is understandable to anyone who has ever seen, but not looked too closely at a sponge, which has no head, no brain, no bones, no mouth, and no internal organs. Sponges come in an astonishing variety of shapes that to us look like cups, fans, tubes and colorful, crusty smears on rocks and coral. They range in size from a few millimeters wide to more than a meter tall, like the great barrel-like glass sponge that lives in Antarctic waters. All sponges are aquatic, tied permanently to the water by their lifestyle and body plan. Of the 10,000 species alive today, only 150 live in fresh water, the rest in the ocean. Read the full chapter...

FEATURED CREATURE: Meliebe leonine

Is that watermelon we smell?

Nope. It’s the Meliebe leonine who lives in kelp forests and eel grass beds along the Pacific coast.

Look at a melibe and you might think: jellyfish. But it’s the melibe’s head, or oral hood, that’s fooling you. To feed, a melibe extends its hood and sweeps it back and forth to catch small plankton, which it then passes to its mouth. While melibe prefer to remain attached to a surface, they can dislodge when threatened and swim by contracting their bodies.

Deanna McBeath, Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School - FEATURED TEACHER

photo of science teacher Deanna McBeathMy name is Deanna McBeath and I've been teaching middle school for ten awesome years!  Right now I teach 5th and 6th grade science at the Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School in Chicago, IL.  I fell in love with science while growing up in Kentucky and Costa Rica, both of which have absolutely stunning natural environments to explore, from Mammoth Cave – the largest underground cave system in the world – to the many volcanoes and rainforests and precolumbian archaeological sites in Central America.  Was I a lucky kid, or what?  I love all kinds of science, but I get especially fired up when teaching about biodiversity, evolution, and earth science, and my favorite part is getting kids all fired up, too!

I just learned about Shape of Life this year at the NSTA conference, and I was so excited to try it out.  I knew it would fit perfectly into the unit I was about to start with my 5th grade students about evolution and biodiversity...

Join us on an amazing tour of how animal life evolved on planet earth

These short videos show students of all ages the dramatic rise of the animal kingdom and the astonishing diversity we see on earth today:

  • Stunning animations explain the intricate inner workings of animals’ bodies, demonstrating the complementary relationship of form and function.
  • Up-close films show animal behaviors while hunting and feeding in their natural habitats.
  • Scientists, shown at work, study paleontology, genetics and ecology, pursuing their passion for the animals they study.
  • From sponges, to worms, to humans, each phylum is presented in exquisite detail of its body plan and the evolutionary developments that lead to today’s astonishing diversity.
  • Other topics present exciting new developments in genetics, paleontology, and engineering.

All these videos align with the Next Generation Science Standards for Middle School and California 7th grade science standards.