Tag Archives: Teaching Evolution

4 Great Resources for Teaching Evolution

Evolutionary theory is the core of biology and encompasses a broad range of concepts.  Luckily, for teachers like me there are some well-developed educational resources.  I teach an introductory 2 credit college-level evolution class and would like to present some web resources that have fabulous activities for all educational levels.

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The Understanding Evolution site is a collaborative project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education it has a large number of teaching materials for evolutionary concepts at all levels K-12 and including college.  One of my favorite things about this site are the conceptual frameworks and teaching goals that are in the teaching lounge for each grade level category Also, the teaching goals are directly linked with ideas for lessons and articles for further reading.

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The Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s educational site Biointeractive is a treasure trove of lessons, articles, lectures by well-known scientists, animations, and documentaries.  Some resources that I particularly enjoy using in and out (for homework) of my evolution class are the short film “The Origin of Species: The Making of a Theory”, all three episodes of the documentary “Your Inner Fish” with Neil Shubin, and the lizard evolution virtual lab. The short film “The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and Adaptation” and the accompanying problem set and spreadsheet “Allele and Phenotype Frequencies in Rock Pocket Mouse Populations” are particularly engaging for students.  This film and problem set describes the work of Michael Nachman who has identified a gene that is important in rock pocket mice adaptation to predation pressures in different colored landscapes.  The data that students analyze is real data from the study.

National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS)

The case study method of teaching applied to college science teaching, from The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science

The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science has over 63 case studies related to evolution.  Some of these are clicker cases, directed problem solving, role-playing, or debate oriented, however they all have a story to engage your students with.  Sometimes it is hard to teach science without just lecturing the content and these case studies certainly help.  Cases that I use in my evolution class are “An Antipodal Mystery” about the difficulty scientists had in classifying the platypus when it was first discovered and “What is a Species?: Speciation and the Maggot Fly” a clicker case study on mechanisms of speciation and different species concepts.   The case studies are free but there is a $25/year access fee for the answer keys.

Last but not least is this short TEDED animation by Paul Anderson and Alan Foreman.  In just over 5 minutes they do a pretty good job of describing the major microevolutionary mechanisms.

I hope you find these resources useful for your teaching and learning.  If you have any additional resources that are great for teaching evolution please let me know in the comments below.