Evolution Box

Big Ideas

It is a big concept for students to comprehend, that we live on a dynamic Earth that is continually changing.  What is even harder for them to grasp is that it is a slow process, which takes many generations and millions of years.  Examples of the slow processes of change are the continents moving centimeters per year and organisms coming into existence and then only remembered through the fossils they leave behind.  One way to help students grasp the concept behind the slow changes on earth is through taking them out to experience the world around them and have them reflect and simulate what they observe happening around them.   

The big idea behind this unit is best expressed with the old proverb “the only constant is change”.  Students will answer essential questions throughout the unit.  It is the following essential questions that guide the planning behind the unit.  

  • What evidence supports the theory of evolution and natural selection?
  • How do mutations help or hurt an individual or species?
  • How do adaptations occur? What are the mechanisms behind adaptations?  How do they help a species evolve or go extinct?
  • Who is Darwin and how did he “discover” or why is he associated with evolution? How do careful observations and calculations help scientists form theories to describe the mechanisms involved in scientific theory?
  • What are the changes occurring at Point Reyes and how do these changes affect the organisms that live there.

The teaching in this unit is focused on problem-based learning.  Students will be provided experiences in which they are able to think like experts in the field.  They will be learning and experiencing models and simulations of what organisms do to adapt and survive in their habitats and transfer that knowledge to solve real-life problems that other scientists are or have been working on.  At the end of the unit there will be authentic assessments so the self directed learners can show that they are transferring their knowledge to new tasks. (Loague, 2001).

Essential Questions

  • What evidence supports the theory of evolution and natural selection?
  • How do mutations help or hurt an individual or species?
  • How do adaptations occur? What are the mechanisms behind adaptations?  How do they help a species evolve or go extinct?
  • Who is Darwin and how did he “discover” or why is he associated with evolution? How do careful observations and calculations help scientists form theories to describe the mechanisms involved in scientific theory?
  • What are the changes occurring at Point Reyes and how do these changes affect the organisms that live there.

Understandings

  • Students will understand that it is the environment that chooses which species stay and which go extinct. 
  • Students will understand that adaptations are important for the survival of a species, and why.
  • Students will understand that life on Earth is dynamic, and ever changing.
  • How does evolution and natural selection play into my life now? (super bugs, pesticide use, introduction of non-native species, coyote cranial sizes are a few ways to introduce this idea for real world application.

Knowledge acquired
Students will know….

  • Key terms evolution, adaptation, natural selection, extinction
  • The ways scientists study evidence to find links between newly discovered and already known organisms. 
  • Explain the causes and effects of extinction of organisms.
  • Discuss a few of the major extinction periods in our world’s history.
  • Darwin’s and Lamarck’s simplified theories about how characteristics are passed to future generations.

Skills acquired
Students will be able to…..

  • Use information provided about different organisms and links them through using geological, fossil evidence and comparative anatomy clues given.
  • Be able to write a persuasive letter to the editor of a scientific journal concerning a real life application of evolution and extinction.
  • Predict possible outcomes of a species chances to survive due to adaptations or a lack thereof for certain environmental changes. 
  • Discuss the importance of Darwin’s work and how he went about it, compare it to what we have learned about the scientific methods.