Putting it All Together: Evolving Ideas in Evolution

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SWBAT to describe evolution and natural selection and identify current examples related to these concepts.

Big Idea

Use engaging video clips to hook students into an in depth discussion about evolution and natural selection all around us!

Notes for the Teacher

I use this lesson as a wrap up to our evolution unit.  It utilizes short video clips from the PBS Evolution website to discuss the following ideas:

Video 1: “Isn’t Evolution Just a Theory?”
Video 2: “Who Was Charles Darwin?”
Video 3: “How Do We Know Evolution Happens?” 
Video 4: “How Does Evolution Really Work?”
Video 6: “Why does Evolution Matter Now?”

There are two other video clips dealing with human evolution ideas as well as how evolution connects to religion but these two areas do not fit into our curriculum so I don't use them in class.   I like that the videos are short and utilize scientists doing research in the field.  I also like that the flow of inquiry goes from basic terminology (theory in science vs. in social settings) to the history of evolution discoveries, to more current issues in evolution related to disease.  The last video clip relates microbes and how some evolve to become resistant to our medicinal remedies while others reduce their level of toxicity based upon water treatment options that either limit or enhance their motility and access to new hosts.  This is by far the most complex idea and one that students are eager to unpack because of their solid foundation up to that point.

I use this lesson because student engagement in this topic area is high and their collaborative discussion skills are at their peak as we come to the end of our year together.  Our protocols have been in place all year and at this point, they do not need significant direction or redirection in order to have a productive conversation with many contributors.  I use a set of prompts to ensure that students have taken away the main points of each video clip and to help them review what they know and communicate it effectively within the class discussion.

I have included a link to the official website above.  However, if you have any difficulties using either play option (RealPlayer or QuickTime), all video clips are available on Youtube on the Gravitationalist channel. 

The Classroom Flow: Viewing the Video Clips

30 minutes

1.  Go to the the PBS Evolution website  to show the following video clips:

Video 1: “Isn’t Evolution Just a Theory?”
Video 2: “Who Was Charles Darwin?”
Video 3: “How Do We Know Evolution Happens?” 
Video 4: “How Does Evolution Really Work?”
Video 6: “Why does Evolution Matter Now?”

  • Note:  Remember that these clips are also available on Youtube.  Search by title of clip to find.

2.  Pass out the Evolving Ideas video questions document.

3.  Tell students that today you will be wrapping up the evolution unit using these clips and prompts.  

4. For each video clip, use the same protocol:

  • Show the video clip.
  • Give students 3 minutes to answer the prompts quietly as a solo activity.
  • Give them 2 minutes to discuss.
  • Use the spokesperson protocol to take any brief clarifying questions or comments.
  • If you find there is not enough time to get to Video 6, save it for the following day.  It is the clip that has the most information and depending upon the class, may be best learned after the rest of the series has been slowly unpacked rather than reviewed quickly.  I have shifted my approach depending upon the needs of each individual class of students each year.

The Classroom Flow: Making Lasting Connections

10 minutes

1.  Put an index card with a video clip number and name on five lab tables.  Have students move to the lab table of their choice so that six students are in each group.

  • Note: Alternatively, you can keep students in their lab groups of 3-4 people and have each video clip addressed by two lab tables.  I have done both and they both work well.  I tend to prefer smaller groups, but in the interest of time after a robust large group discussion, I have found the lesser number of groups to work well at this point in the school year.

2.  Tell each lab group that they will be responsible for presenting their answers for one of the video clips we have watched.  Give them 2-3 minutes to compare their written responses and determine group member roles for this brief share out.  Each student must contribute to the share out!

3.  Have each team share out their responses.  Answer any clarifying questions that come up from the groups or the whole class.  Typically, students will use this time to confirm their answers with very few clarification needs.  Check out this typical student work sample.  There are a few vocabulary words missing in the section about types of evidence for evolution but overall students gained and confirmed their understanding of evolutionary concepts through the viewing and discussion of these short clips.  On page one, you can see this student has a clear understanding about the basics of evolution and scientific theory in general.  On page two, this student begins to bring in some of her own examples into her answers as well as some of her own reactions and feelings about the information she saw presented in the video clips.