8. Bird Beak Buffet - Assessment


  1. Collect the students’ graphs and responses to the conclusion questions.
  2. Before the activity, have students write a short essay about “what is evolution and how does it work?” These may be collected to give you as the teacher a sense of what their initial understanding may be. After the activity and discussion, have students revise their essay to reflect what they now know about evolution.

Going Further

  1. Conduct a deeper investigation of the Galapagos finches. There are many resources that you can use to help you in this quest. First of all, read the Pulitzer Prize winning book The Beak of the Finch, by Jonathan Weiner. The book flips back and forth between Darwin’s original studies and the modern day work of Peter and Rosemary Grant. The Grants have spent over 20 consecutive years studying the Galapagos finches. They recognize each and every finch living on the island and know the family relationships between every individual bird. Several lesson plans for teachers have been developed from their work:
    • The PBS evolution site provides a downloadable pdf file with several graphs showing changes in finch beaks over time. One of PBS's online courses addresses some of the questions raised by the data and may be appropriate to use directly with high school students.
    • Teachers Domain has adapted the data from the PBS evolution site slightly to create a lesson plan for teachers with discussion questions about the data
    • There is a good 1995 video of the Grants’ work called “What Darwin Never Saw”, produced by PBS for “The New Explorer” series with Bill Kurtis. Several teacher groups have created lesson plans that follow the video including one from ENSI web and one from the Chicago Academy of Sciences.
    • Finally, for the most advanced students, go straight to some original data and look for patterns and correlations. Prentice Hall has created a lesson plan suitable for AP Biology and college level courses looking at the effect of drought on one species of finch
  2. Another hands-on approach to further investigations of bird beaks is provided in this lesson from TERC. Students use a spring scale to measure the force required to crack a nut with pliers that represent different types of bird beaks.
  3. Finally, there are several videos that provide excellent information on evolution and Charles Darwin.
    • PBS produced a fabulous 7 episode series on evolution. There’s excellent snippets on the evolution of drug resistance in HIV, summaries of Darwin’s work, discussions of evolution and religion, and more. Unfortunately, it is expensive, at $100 for the DVD set alone or $130 for the educators’ set with curriculum.
    • As part of the PBS evolution series, there are several quicktime movie clips that can be viewed over the internet and an associated teacher's curriculum guide with activites and lesson ideas.