Evolution ties everything in biology together, and sometimes I get so excited that I don’t know where to start (picture yourself on a shopping spree at Target with a 2 minute time limit… where to start?!)
I’ve compiled a list of
five (Ok, that wasn’t enough..) seven tips for teaching evolution. And the best part? They are super easy to implement.
5 7 Helpful Tips for Teaching Evolution:
1. It’s not “just” a theory. A theory is a pretty big deal. Dismissing the research that goes behind a theory makes it sound like any ol’ Joe from down the street could come up with a scientific theory. Evolution is not watered-down science and if you introduce evolution as such, students may not appreciate it or form thought-provoking questions.
2. Explore Darwin First. Don’t Underestimate the Finches- Darwin observed natural selection without genetics, but struggled to answer some of his questions. Focusing on Darwin’s research and conclusions helps students see natural selection in a different way. Then after establishing Darwin’s observations and conclusions, bring in the population genetics. This will answer many questions and students tend to appreciate it more.
On the same note, it really helps to spend some time on Darwin’s finches. This is a great opportunity to have a discussion with your students. If they were to put themselves in Darwin’s shoes- how would the finches, their location, the geography and history have been Darwin’s “Aha!” moment? Darwin’s finches are so mainstream that they’ve become a bit lackluster, but they were a monumental discovery as far as Darwin’s theory of natural selection goes.
3. Help students make the connection that genetic diversity drives evolution. Population genetics should be taught either back to back or side by side evolution- it answers questions and makes connections. Show students examples of genetic diversity and how environmental changes can have an impact on the population- via their phenotypes/genotypes.
4. Give students an alternative definition of natural selection: Natural Selection does not act on individuals. It acts upon phenotypes. Students should be able to comprehend natural selection beyond the text book definition. Natural selection does not give individuals what they need. Natural selection does not favor individuals. Natural selection favors the phenotypes that make adaptations.
5. Give students a general idea of how natural selection works using simulations. Paper labs, demonstrations, and virtual simulations are all within reach when teaching natural selection and evolution. Some examples include
Modeling Evolution: The Charlie Shuffle– paid resource
The Hungry Games: A Game of Natural Selection– advanced; differentiated versions available- paid resource.
6. Teach what evolution is not. Did man evolve from monkeys? Not quite. Address all those common misconceptions. Bust those common misconceptions with some common ancestors…. millions of years…and phylogenetic trees!
7. Videos! The only problem when finding videos to show is narrowing them down. There are so many good ones! These are a few of my favorites:
What Darwin Never Knew– this is a long one, but really captivating and it ties everything in!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this super easy to use tips! If you’d like more tips, tools, and free resources, please consider subscribing: