Unit Study on Prehistoric Man: Evolution-Based

*NOTE:  I’m still getting quite a few views over here on WordPress, but want to let you know that I’ve moved the entire High on Homeschool blog over to Blogger.  Here’s the link:  http://www.highonhomeschool.blogspot.com.  All kinds of new material over there, so come on over and visit me there!

This study took three weeks to complete.  History is the cornerstone of our studies, and this time we went WAY back.  Max has a new appreciation for archaeology, artifacts, fossils and even how to date a dinosaur bone.  I have a continued appreciation for the marvels of our planet and the species that have inhabited (and currently) inhabit it.  Depending on your perspective, this study may need some tailoring to fit your beliefs.  Please note that we took a hard core science perspective and went way back to the big bang shabang theory, to the primordial ooze, to jawless fishes and such.

Max would like to concentrate further on dinosaurs, so we may tackle this at another time.  We did not focus on them all that much.  However, he did learn about the classification system of plants and animals (the order of living things) and how scientists name things in our environment.  A little introduction to Latin here, too.

During this unit study we covered literature, science, math, geography, language arts, history in a big bang way, vocabulary and spelling and some art, music and karate.  Max takes karate lessons twice a week and also has begun to mess around on the drums.  The only component I feel we need more of is writing, so I’m trying to come up with clever ways to incorporate that into his week.  He does work on cursive handwriting (I know, people say it’s a dying subject), but I’m convinced that practicing with your hands and fingers in fine motor movement is good for your brain.  We’ll move to typing later on.  So, here goes……


Hunt for the Last Cat by Justin Denzel (sorry, no picture or link) – a coming of age story appropriate for ages 9 and up, set in Florida in 6,000 B.C.  About a young tribal boy who is battling to save his clan from Smilodon, the supposed last remaining Sabertooth Tiger.  He also must convince his clan that his newly won friend, a girl from a clan that has died out due to a disease, is not an evil spirit, that she can be trusted to help them.  It is a good read-aloud story.  Max wrote up a summary of the book when we finished it.


David Antram’s illustrations alone are worth reading this book.  This book is packed with historical information and some pretty zany cave people.


Hannah Bonner’s book addressed the Silurian and Devonian geologic time periods, before the dinosaurs came to be.   This book helps to establish a time line.

stories in stone

by Jo Kittinger.  Full color photographs; text a little dry, but I thought it was interesting; helps to make the subject well-rounded.  Contains easy to read tables of geologic time scales, old geography and the answer to the important question, “what’s the difference between a mammoth and a mastodon?”


by Fiona MacDonald.  Entertaining.  The article telling you how to use the whole mammoth was, well……gross.  Stoneagers were not wasteful people!  We could learn something from them.


by Larry Gonick.  I fancy this book.  Had to have our own copy, so bought it on Amazon used.  There is some adult humor (even stuff I don’t get), but it’s not a big deal to skip those sentences or to explain the meaning in a different way.  Humorous and well-researched.

painters of the caves

by Patricia Lauber.  Depicting the discovery of the Chaveut cave in southeastern France, and what a boon it has been to anthropologists and archaeologists as they try to piece together stone age culture and customs.  Very nice pictures to accompany the text.  It would be inspiring to do an art project based off of these paintings.


by Robert Mash.  Charming!  A pet owners guide to keeping all types of dinosaurs, which ones suit newbie owners the best, which ones to leave to the large game parks, which ones to avoid all together.  It was a delightful read and low and behold, we learned some actual facts about dinosaurs and how they may have lived/acted.  I liked the British author’s sense of humor very much.  Wry.  The pictures are fantastic.

eyewitness prehistoric life

Can’t go wrong with the Eyewitness series from DK.  Good to take it in snippets of information.  There is a DVD listed below that accompanies this text nicely.

DK early humans

Thorough resource.


History channel’s From Ape to Man examines the major discoveries that have led us to the understanding we have today, including theories that never gained full acceptance in their time, an elaborate hoax that confused the scientific community for years, and the ultimate understanding of the key elements that separate man from apes.  Max liked it because it depicts the scientists, their egos and their need to be right, when in fact, sometimes they were wrong.  Found this on Netflix, but it is also available in libraries.

walking with cavemen

Discovery Channel’s Walking with Cavemen dvd is GOOD.  You must know that the loin cloths were optional in this movie (i.e., you will see naked people).  You decide if it’s appropriate.  Covers 3.5 million years from Australopithecus to Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

prehistoric life dvd

Goes well with the book of the same title listed above.  Available at library or even at Target.


Echo:  Secrets of the Lost Cavern is a virtual computer game wherein you need to use your wits to survive during the paleolithic period with a young man named Arok as your character.  It’s older, so it’s cheap, especially if you can find it used.

We used one INTERNET SOURCE and that was a well-written text book about prehistoric man that is easy to follow along with.  I created worksheets to accompany our reading so Max could fill in the answers as we went along.  Here’s the link:  http://www.kidspast.com/world-history/0001-prehistoric-humans.php

As far as GEOGRAPHICAL information, in the Stories in Stone book by Jo Kittinger, there is a page depicting the continents throughout the ages and how they used to be all smooshed together into what was called Gondwanaland.  We learned that the continents are still continuing to move at a fingernail’s pace.  Beringia was an important concept, too.  The ice bridge that formed over the Bering Strait during the last ice age allowed man to gradually populate the earth.  Conceptually, I tried to teach numbers of man over time until we get to our present state of some 7 billion people on the face of the earth (yowza.)  Pretty darn amazing if you stop to ponder.  Getting a look at Africa and the digs that unveiled ‘Lucy’, Australopithecus Afarensis in Ethiopia helped with context as to where and when.  Then we traced the supposed nomadic movements of man through the ages.  Yes, I realize that some may consider this all theoretical guesswork.   I’m working off of the evidence to date and of course, could dig much deeper (oh my gosh, ripe with puns).  Coincidentally, the discovery of an older upright primate was recently written up in Science and Time Magazine showcased the discovery in summarized form – the magazine arrived right smack dab in the middle of this unit study.

We wrapped up the study by compiling a poster showing the progression of man over time from Homo habilis to Homo sapiens and the traits that may have differentiated them.


Beringia, resin, friction, leather, marrow, weapons, wound, reindeer, prairie, geology, in/vertebrate, bacteria, nucleus, herbivore, shaman, ochre, communicate, scavenger, incisors, chromosomes, extinction, Siberia, vegetarian, hominids, boomerang, Woolly Mammoth, nomad, erect, artifact, fossil, ivory, Australopithecus, and camouflage.


As I run into more resources that would suit various unit studies, I’ll pop in and place them under the appropriate headings.  So, January 2010 I found this game:

Saw it at a natural history museum and did some research on it – it looks to be a very helpful tool in learning about geography.  Amazon seems to have the best price offered; at the museum it was close to $40.  On Amazon at this writing it’s $23.00.  For ages 7 and up, 2 to 4 players, two variations of the game.  Plus, the company who makes this game, www.IQideas.com also looks like a treasure trove of great things to check out.

And……these books are too cute to resist and I wish we had known about them during this study.  Even though they are written for 4-8 year olds, I think many older kids would enjoy them.  Quick reads.  Littlenose is a little caveboy who embarks upon many adventures and usually gets himself into trouble.  He has a pet Woolly Mammoth whom he calls ‘Two Eyes’.  John Grant is the author of these 13 books.  I was smitten with the covers and needed to know more.  Will check for them at the library!

January 19, 2010 found this book by Nick Arnold – a fun look at evolution:


4 Responses

  1. I really like this Unit Study. We’ve been doing one based more just around dinosaurs and evolution and incorporating a few fun things like fossil hunting and making dinosaur robots from junk (a fun way to get design and technology in!). If you’re interested it’s at http://www.squidoo.com/DinosaurDiscovery. But I know some of the resources you’ve highlighted and agree with your comments; How to Keep Dinosaurs is not one I know so I think we’ll go for that one! And we’re planning to move on to focusing more on human evolution so there will be more here to come back to. Thanks. P.S. Photo is of my homeschooled son William age 11 in case you wondered!

    • Hi Sonya and William!
      Thanks so much for the comment and the link you provided. We are most certainly going to check out how to make dinosaur robots from junk! Isn’t information sharing terrific? Where would we be without it. Our next unit study will be on whales and dolphins; then maybe after that we’ll go back to look at dinosaurs more thoroughly; your site will help to make my job easier – hooray! What part of the country do you live in? Looks like you guys are ‘digging’ deep and having a lot of fun in the process.

      • Yes – information sharing is terrific and aren’t we lucky that we can share ways of making learning fun and enjoyable – the way it’s meant to be. Quite excited you’re doing whales and dolphins; we are very interested in them so we’ll come back to see what you guys have been up to. Sorry to say we live all the way over in Wales so not too close to you – but we are near a World Heritage site for dinosaur footprints! Have you been fossil hunting? Best wishes Sonya William Catherine (and Rob – husband)

  2. […] We used some of Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World.  We giggled over Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe.  The units on Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt were fascinating and probably our most thorough […]

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