The February 2010 issue of The American Biology Teacher has much on Darwin and evolution:
Do You Believe in Evolution?
Guest Editorial, William F. McComas
Where is the “Origin” in the Origin of Species?
Experience Millions of Years, Larry Flammer
Here’s a relatively concrete activity to teach the large numbers representing evolutionary deep time.
Mainstream scientists often claim that australopithecines such as the specimen nicknamed “Lucy” exhibit anatomy intermediate between that of apes and that of humans and use this as evidence that humans evolved from australopithecines, which evolved from apes. On the other hand, creationists reject evolution and claim that australopithecines are “just apes.” Here, a point-by-point visual comparison with the skeletons of a chimpanzee, “Lucy,” and a human is presented in order to evaluate both claims, treating them as testable hypotheses. The results support the hypothesis that australopithecines are anatomically intermediate between apes and humans. Classroom applications of this test of hypotheses are also discussed.
Charles Darwin’s Botanical Investigations, Suzanne M. Harley
Charles Darwin’s botanical studies provide a way to expose students to his work that followed the publication of On the Origin of Species. We can use stories from his plant investigations to illustrate key concepts in the life sciences and model how questions are asked and answered in science.
An overlooked feature of Darwin’s work, is his use of “imaginary illustrations” to show that natural selection is competent to produce adaptive, evolutionary change. When set in the context of Darwin’s methodology, these thought experiments provide a novel way to teach natural selection and the nature of science.
Education’s Missing Link: How Private School Teachers Approach Evolution, Michael W. Schulteis
Over 5 million students and 28,000 schools are consistently marginalized or left out of statistics that describe evolution and science education. Although they are relatively few in number compared with their public school counterparts, the millions of students and hundreds of thousands of teachers in private schools need to be counted in research about teaching and learning in the biology classroom. Assumptions have been made about how teachers in these often religious schools teach evolution, but do we have verifiable data? Could teachers in these schools be similar to those in public schools in their teaching of evolution, or is there a silent undercurrent that has not been detected? It is the purpose of this study to reveal more about this underrepresented segment of the population of science teachers.
Florida Teachers’ Attitudes about Teaching Evolution, Samantha R. Fowler, Gerry G. Meisels
A survey of Florida teachers reveals many differences in comfort level with teaching evolution according to the state’s science teaching standards, general attitudes and beliefs about evolution, and the extent to which teachers are criticized, censured, disparaged, or reprehended for their beliefs about the teaching of evolution.
PopGen Fishbowl: A Free Online Simulation Model of Microevolutionary Processes, Thomas C. Jones, Thomas F. Laughlin
Natural selection and other components of evolutionary theory are known to be particularly challenging concepts for students to understand. To help illustrate these concepts, we developed a simulation model of microevolutionary processes. The model features all the components of Hardy-Weinberg theory, with population size, selection, gene flow, nonrandom mating, and mutation all being demonstrated in the simulations. By using this freely available computer model, students can develop and test hypotheses with replicated virtual experiments. Because the model is an agent-based simulation, there is biologically realistic variability in the results. Students using the model see results both numerically and graphically and these are reinforced by an animation of the virtual fish in the simulated experiment.
I describe a quantitative approach to three case studies in evolution that can be used to challenge college freshmen to explore the power of natural selection and ask questions that foster a deeper understanding of its operation and relevance. Hemochromatosis, the peppered moth, and hominid cranial capacity are investigated with a common algebraic formula that illustrates the application of mathematics in biology.
A Lesson on Evolution & Natural Selection, Anthony D. Curtis
I describe three activities that allow students to explore the ideas of evolution, natural selection, extinction, mass extinction, and rates of evolutionary change by engaging a simple model using paper, pens, chalk, and a chalkboard. As a culminating activity that supports expository writing in the sciences, the students write an essay on mass extinction. All activities are geared for high school biology and perhaps introductory college biology classes. With little modification, activities 1 and 2 can be used successfully in middle school and perhaps in the higher elementary grade levels.
In a flexible multisession laboratory, students investigate concepts of phylogenetic analysis at both the molecular and the morphological level. Students finish by conducting their own analysis on a collection of skeletons representing the major phyla of vertebrates, a collection of primate skulls, or a collection of hominid skulls.