Mass Extinctions

Mass Extinctions

Use this infographic to explore Earth’s mass extinctions and to think critically about what caused mass extinctions in the past and what could be causing one now.


5 - 8


Earth Science, Geology, Geography, Physical Geography

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Idea for Use in the Classroom

Share the infographic with students and discuss what defines a mass extinction.

Divide the class into two groups. Assign one group to come up with reasons as to why we ARE experiencing a mass extinction and assign the other group to give reasons as to why we are NOT experiencing a mass extinction. Give them a quarter of the class time to come up with their arguments using information from the infographic on previous mass extinctions, and then lead a debate for half of the class. When both sides have given their cases and rebuttals, come back together as a class to discuss the controversies surrounding the issue and why it is in fact a difficult topic.Ask: Over what time scale have Earth’s previous mass extinctions taken place? Ask students to come up with possible causes for the sixth mass extinction given the sources of past extinctions. As a class, come up with a list of ideas to help prevent the extinctions of current species.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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