Investigating the Evidence for Evolution (Day 4 of 4)

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SWBAT identify, describe, and analyze the four major areas of scientific evidence for evolution.

Big Idea

Use this jigsaw activity and research paper analysis to get students analyzing the different types of scientific evidence in support of evolution!

Notes for the Teacher

This activity is one I have been working with for a few years now.  When I started it, my intention was to give students a brief opportunity to investigate a science concept on their own that I felt was one they could grasp without a large amount of teacher support or prior knowledge.  I also felt the end of the final school grading session was a great time to shift away from the lecture framework because at that point, even a 15 minute teacher centered session was getting to be challenging for students ready for summer break and a bit bored by the routine of their school day.  

I quickly realized that my two day activity was one that students were extremely interested in pursuing more substantively and that they wanted time to create representations of their learning that required more collaborative time.  This four day iteration seems to work best.  I have outlined my typical plan for each day, but keep in mind that every class is different and you may need to adjust a bit each day.  This year, most students took 1.5 days to complete their expert group work, another 1.5-2 days to make their poster (many groups come in on their own time during lunch or after school to complete this piece of the assignment) and we still wound up completing all of our work by the fourth day.  Just in case there was a group who was really committed to specific high level graphics on their posters, I extended their poster deadline on an individual basis.  My rubric for this project was never intended to be highly detailed; the work students produced really was out of their own interest and curiosity about the subject and not for points.  I gave very little guidelines about their visual work and the result was a wide array of colorful posters that followed our year long discussion about best practices in visual displays (white space, borders, balance of text and graphics).  I was very proud to see them attend to these guidelines even without specific instructions to do so. 

Day 1:  Expert group research into the four areas of evidence for evolution.

Standards:  SL.9-10.1, SL.9.10.1d, RST.9-10.2, W.9-10.2d

Day 2: Complete expert group work and begin lab group evidence share out.  

Standards: SL.9-10.1, SL.9-10.1d, SL.9-10.4, W.9-10.2d

Day 3:  Finish lab team presentations and begin poster creation.

Standards: SL.9-10.1, SL.9-10.1d, SL.9-10.4, W.9-10.2d, SL.9-10.5

Day 4:  Complete and display lab group posters, class discussion of evidence types and teacher fellowship Stanford University Payne research lab data on trilobites with additional credit to and acknowledgement of Dr. M. L. Knope for his role in this summer experience for science teachers.

 Standards: SL.9-10.1, SL.9-10.1d, RST.9-10.2, SP1, SP4, SP7, XC-SC-HS-2, W.9-10.1e

The Classroom Flow: Finishing Up Poster Creation & Display

30 minutes

1.  Allow students to go directly to their lab tables to begin their work finishing up their evidence for evolution posters.  Students will be eager to work because they know time is limited today!

  • Note:  If the time aspect of the work is causing students anxiety or frustration, you can choose to have the posters turned in tomorrow.  I often do this because I can see that the students really want to turn in their best work but with projects piling up as they tend to do the last six weeks of school, it just isn't happening the way they envisioned.  Whenever I can, within reason, I want to honor their commitment to quality work.  

2.  As students work, go around to each table to look at posters, point out interesting information or visual effects, and check in for clarifying or extension questions.

3.  Give students a clear picture of your timeframe for work today and remind them that you have another brief activity planned in addition to this studio time for poster work.

  • Note: I budget 20-25 minutes for poster work and 5-10 minutes for poster hanging, assuming some groups will finish early and start that process ahead of my informal schedule.  This second piece takes that amount of time because it requires some direction from you as to where to hang them, what kind of tape to use (our school allows only blue painter's tape) and how much/where to put the tape so that the poster doesn't fall down by the end of the day.  

4.  As student groups complete their posters, show them where to hang them up around the room for easy viewing by the entire class.

5.  Allow students who have finished to go around to look at other group's posters. 

  • Note:  This congratulatory/complimentary aspect of the studio work time experience is important for group cohesiveness and as an artistic courtesy that shows respect for the time, effort, and thought that each student group put into their final product.  It isn't often that we have truly unstructured time in our class but I find that when that time revolves around admiring other student work samples, it is time well spent. 

6.  At the end of the work session, ask students to clean up and return to their desks.  Ask any student group that feels they need more time to check in with you as a team to determine the best plan.

The Classroom Flow: Sharing out Original Data for Discussion

15 minutes

1.  Ask students to briefly discuss in their groups the following prompt:

Of the four types of evidence for evolution (fossil record, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, and molecular/biochemical evidence) which type of evidence do you think is the strongest? What makes you think that?

2.  Using the spokesperson protocol, share out student responses.  Most students will pick molecular/biochemical evidence and their rationale will involve the specificity and statistical capabilities of tracking amino acids and nucleic acids in sequence.  Many students will connect the initial goals of comparative anatomy and embryology to this newer technological evidence piece (macro vs. micro) and how the newer data set complements and confirms the older way of comparing organisms using structures alone.

3.  Tell them that you'd like to show them a second incredibly strong but sometimes discounted area of evidence, the fossil record.  

4.  Show the introductory slides #1-2 of the The Evolution & Ecology of Trilobites research slide presentation that give some history about the trilobites.  Most students will have prior knowledge about this organism.  But you can really get their interest in hearing more by talking about how they were the major predator of the ocean up until two mass extinction events.

5.  Show slides #3 and 13 to show what happened not only to the trilobites across two mass extinction events but also all marine and land organisms.  My notes at the bottom of each slide give additional information about how many organisms went extinct over these two time periods.

6.  This is a great time to talk again about the bottleneck effect and how vulnerable species can be after a bottleneck event such as the one the trilobites went through during the first mass extinction shown on slide #3.  After it, only one group of trilobites remained, making it less likely they could withstand a second event (and they didn't).  Switching to slide #13, however, shows the other side of this phenomenon--that as one species became extinct, other groups were able to fill their niche and flourish.

7.  If there is time and students are interested, show them the other graph representations of the trilobite data I helped to catalog at Stanford.  I tell my students how amazed at the huge number of fossils that were in our fossil database and how that helped to shift my thinking as to the value and validity of fossil evidence--these data/records of fossil measurements, scaled diagrams/sketches, photographs, and samples are incredibly wide reaching and detailed and help to form a very layered picture of our history.  

The Classroom Flow: Wrapping Up

5 minutes

1.  In their lab groups, ask students to discuss one interesting idea they each learned about evolution through this activity. Share out through a brief whip around or popcorn style student initiated protocol.

2.  Here are some student work samples for the group evidence for evolution posters.  

Poster 1

Poster 2

Poster 3

Poster 4

Poster 5

Poster 6

Poster 7

All of these posters had clear student voices (text written in their own words), important terms were used and defined appropriately, and each area of evidence included images/graphics than enhanced learning and audience engagement.

3.  In addition to their group poster, each student also turned in their completed evidence for evolution note page.  A typical student response for this aspect of the activity is shown here in this student work sample