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Evolution Lesson Sets

The five lesson sets below were developed with the help of practicing science teachers and tackle the most common and pervasive evolution misconceptions that students bring to the classroom. Contact us with feedback or questions.

Lesson Set One — The Origin of a Species

Speciation is the evolutionary process that results in new species. Understanding speciation allows scientists to understand how the tree of life developed over time. This lesson set features the speciation of squamates – scaled reptiles like lizards and snakes. Students investigate the genetic and environmental factors that led to limb reduction and examine how one suborder of this group, the Serpentes, flourished thanks to this adaptation.

Lesson Set Two: Good is Good Enough?

Evolutionary fitness – the measure of ability to survive to reproduce – is at the core of natural selection. However, natural selection can only operate within the confines of genetic variation found within a population. In this lesson set, students investigate how significant ecological change can result in dramatic speciation events by using an extensive collection of fossil evidence – horse teeth. Students will also use this primary evidence to understand why orthogenetic evolution is a discredited view.

Lesson Set Three: It’s Time to Lose the Ladder

The evolutionary tree of life is a complex, multi-branching entity. Both random and non-random processes lead to the evolution of new organisms over time. Students examine both artificial and natural selection to better understand the mechanisms involved in evolution. Additionally, this lesson set provides a primer for phylogenetic “tree-thinking.”

Lesson Set Four: No More Monkeying Around

Human beings are inherently curious about themselves. This lesson set focuses on the anthropological account of human origins. Students investigate the origins of Homo sapiens and our evolutionary relationship to the primate family Hominidae. Students also discuss examples of recent human evolution throughout recorded history and consider the variety of traits that humans acquired as a result of evolution and culture.

Lesson Set Five: The Road to Extinction

Extinction is a major feature of the history of life. This lesson set explores the relationships between extinction, evolution, and biodiversity. Students investigate mass extinctions through the extensive fossil record to better understand how current populations are adapting to human impacts. Additionally, students explore possible solutions to mitigate the adverse impacts on biodiversity that result from human activity.

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