Reflection: Trust and Respect Building a cladogram (Part 2/3) - Section 6: Putting It All Together: How Scientific Thinking Changes


Evolution can be the elephant in the room if you have certain young people of faith in your class.  It is important to treat them with respect and kindness. Active learning is important when teaching any controversial topic. Instead of lecturing, I try to have students do something and then we talk about the lab or activity. Since I teach biology as a set of processes for thinking critically about alternatives, I show students the methods that scientists use and have them try them out on their own.  Also, since evolution is a defining principle for biology, I do not have a specific evolution unit. Instead, it is taught all year long starting by showing evolutionary relationships with cladograms.  By teaching in this way, students are given time to process what they are learning and change their paradigm, if necessary.  Regardless of what students decide to accept or reject at the end of the course, controversies usually are based on disagreements in data interpretation.  To be productive, educated members of society, students need to explore that data. 

Teaching evolution can be difficult for a new teacher.  I recommend exploring several free resources.  The National Science Teacher Association has an ebook called NSTA Toolkit for Teaching Evolution.  It is free for members.  Another very helpful website for active learning is Evolution and the Nature of Science Institutes. This website has many free lesson plans that can be modified or used as is as long as they are for non-commercial purposes.  

  Trust and Respect: How To Discuss Evolution with a Student of Faith
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Building a cladogram (Part 2/3)

Unit 1: Phylogeny and Taxonomy
Lesson 2 of 5

Objective: Students will create a cladogram and describe methods used to reveal phylogeny.

Big Idea: Today students act like a modern evolutionary biologists who are appointed to redesign a natural history museum. They must build a cladogram of the specimens before the big move.

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