I think it is important for students to understand the history behind the concepts we study and for them to recognize that these were at one point new discoveries.
I begin this lesson by asking students the following question: Who is Charles Darwin and what was his contribution to science? I have students share their responses, though the majority of students will be able to relate Darwin to evolution. To give students a mental picture of Darwin and his contribution I show the Evidence of Evolution video. (On a side note, if you have never used a Paul Anderson video in your class you are missing out on a great resource. He has tons of videos on so many topics - including NGSS.)
After viewing the video, I have students read Theory of Evolution By Natural Selection from CK12 which build off of the same information and provides students with some other examples. As they read the article, I have them complete the Note Taking Sheet. Students have used this before and are familiar with the format of summarizing what they learned and documenting questions broken up by headings found in the reading.
This activity, Battle of the Beaks, comes form the University of California Museum of Paleontology, which is an excellent resource on all things evolution.
The materials needed for this activity are:
Note: students will select scissors, plastic spoons, tweezers OR binder clips so the total of all four of those should equal the number of students in your class. Also, this lab is best conducted outside, though any large open area will work.
Note: I do not tell my students the type of graph they need to create as we have been working on the skills they need to determine that on their own. The lesson Student Designed Lab: Graphing the Results has this information if you are interested.
Give a food value for each of the food types. Would this change your feeding strategies? How much more of one type of food would you have to eat to equal only one of something else, etc. What would happen if there was a change in the environmental conditions (drought, etc) causing the loss of one of the food items. What would happen to the bird populations?
To conclude this lesson, I show the students Ten Astounding Cases of Modern Evolution and Adaptation from Popular Science (one of my all time favorite resources for science articles that are great for students!) I created this PowerPoint, 10 Astounding Cases of Modern Evolution and Adaptation, with the exact same information just because it is easier to use in class, though I link the original site on my webpage for the students (I like that it links to other resources if the students are interested).
The PowerPoint shows the photograph from the website and asks students to guess what the "astounding" adaptation might be. Some are absolutely impossible to guess but I think it is fun to see what the students will come up with and it definitely gets them thinking.
The last slide of the PowerPoint asks students to notice the organisms they encounter on a daily basis and look at them through a new lens as they attempt to determine their adaptations and how those adaptations have helped them survive within their ecosystem.
This is another formative assessment that I grade using a 3 point scale:
3 - Demonstrates strong understanding of the concept.
2 - Demonstrates good understanding of the concept with only minor misunderstandings
1 - Demonstrates poor understanding of the concept with major misunderstandings
If time allows, I show students the following video that depicts the evolution of the eye. I love how this connects back to our information processing unit where we designed cyborg eyes. The more ways I can connect concepts to other lessons, especially lessons that students loved, the more likely students are to remember what they learned.