Peppered Moths

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Students will be able to describe the importance of coloration in avoiding predation, relate environmental change to changes in organisms and explain how natural selection causes populations to change.

Big Idea

Models can be helpful to describe patterns in natural processes.


5 minutes

To start this lesson, I play the Evolution of the Peppered Moth video.

I tell the students that today they will follow in Dr. Kettlewell's footsteps as they explore the most famous example in natural selection. 


40 minutes

I ask the students to get a computer and navigate to Edmodo, where I have posted the Peppered Moths Guided Notes sheet. The sheet guides the students through the Peppered Moths interactive created by Craig Davis.

In the Peppered Moths activity, students first explore the life cycle of the peppered moth, continue on to the impact of pollution and Kettlewell's experiment. As they do so, they are simply gathering information (SP8).

The Birdseye View section gives students an opportunity to explore natural selection at work, with the added benefit of providing them with data to support their explanations (SP7). Here the students might need some prompting to add the data to their explanations. Often students will skip over the data and attempt give generalizations. The purpose of these questions is for students to recognize the relationship between the variables as they support their position.

In the graphing section of the guided notes, students create the indicated graphs, analyze what they show (SP4) and use them to support their explanations (SP6). This is where most of the thinking in this lesson will take place. As the students are working on this portion, I am circulating the room, making sure that the students refer back to the graphs and use them to explain their answers. The question is not only "What does the graph tell you", but also "How is the data you see in the graph supporting your position" (SP7), and "What pattern emerged from the graph?" (CCC Patterns Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships & Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data). 

Note to teachers: In the student work, I can see that they got the concepts. What I did not take into consideration before assigning this activity was the unfamiliarity of the students with creating digital graphs. Although the student whose work is presented "figured out" a way to represent the data, his graphs are not representative of the data. Another student embedded these graphs:

Although both were able to explain what the graphs were telling them, you might consider going over creating digital graphs with the students, or having them graph on paper if they are more familiar with this method.


5 minutes

To close this lesson, I have students navigate to the evolution probe they took at the start of this lesson series (Evolution - The Greatest Show on Earth). We have been working on these concepts for five lessons, and if the lessons have been effective I should see that some of the original misconceptions have been remedied. If not, it is time to adjust the pacing and re-teach!

Note to teachers: As you can see in this side by side comparison some of the answers have moved in the "right direction" and some have not. The biggest one I see right now has to do with the idea of fitness, and will be addressed right away (Survival of the Fittest). The others will continue to be addressed as we progress through the unit. However, it is also important to realize that some of your students will leave your classroom without having changed all of their views. This is OK, since students will revisit these concepts in other grades, and by exposing them to the correct information we have planted that seed of doubt in the misconception that another teacher down the line might see blossom into a misconception correction.