Teaching Evolution Using Animal Models



Giraffes are usedin a powerpoint presentation asking students to identify reasons why so many different subspecies of giraffes are present. Criticisms of Larmark's theory included as well as specifics on what makes a species, how species are named, and reading cladograms.

Darwin's Finches


Presentation on Darwin's Finches

HHMI Video ~16 min , includes additional activities

Finches are also included in the giraffe presentation to compare how subspecies of finches are like subspecies of giraffes, each adapating to different areas. This allows modern and historical contexts to be established.

Domesticated Dogs


NATURE: Meet the Coywolf | Nova: Dogs Decoded

Each video is one hour, it is probably more efficient to watch clips or the trailer to start a discussion on artificial selection.

White Striped Clover

A case study on the White Striped Clover is a good way to remind students that plants also evolve. The case study includes complex concepts related to evolution and asks students to explain polymorphisms in species.

pocket mouse

Rock Pocket Mouse

Ask students to arrange series of photographs to indicate how the mouse population changed. Students can also watch the video at HHMI that explains how random mutations can drive changes in populations. (There is also a version of the video with a built-in quiz.)


The video "Your Inner Fish" can be streamed from youtube or HHMI and it is one of my favorites to introduce evolution. It focuses on a transitional organsim thought to be the link between fish and amphibians, the tiktaalik.

Stickleback Fish


A virtual lab at HHMI provides background information on stickback fish shows students how gathering data on fish spines reveals clues about the environment they live in.


A presentation case study is used to show how three different types of lice evolved: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. It highlights the connections between humans and other primates and is a good alternative to traditional units on human evolution that can become mired in details related to the taxonomy and naming of hominids.