Evolution & Taxonomy

Evolution is often called the “unifying theory of biology” because it organizes all of the observations gathered by biologists and proposes and explanation for those observations.    All state standards for teaching science include a section on evolution (sometimes called adaptation or change over time).


Peppered Moth Simulation – newspaper and colored paper simulated natural selection
Peppered Moth Simulation Kit – similar to above, only uses a purchased kit from Neo Sci.
Peppered Moth Online Simulation – uses shockwave to simulate capturing moths

Stickleback Fish –  This HHMI virtual lab requires students to count the phenotypes of stickleback fish in two distinct lakes.  Activity includes descriptions of the fish, how glacial lakes form, and allows students to develop their own understanding about selective pressures

Modeling Natural Selection – use tools such as spoons to “capture” beans and determine the best adaptatons
Sex and the Single Guppy – uses pbs site that models sexual selection in guppies, students fill out data table and answer questions
Sex and the Single Guppy – advanced, lab report required and the lab is more open-ended, and allows for more exploration
Evolution Lab – simulator models mutation rates and selection strengths with imaginary creatures
Natural Selection with Bunnies and Wolves – interactive simulation at phet.colorado.edu where students manipulate variables such as climate, color of bunny fur, presence of predator, or food limitations.

Evolution Concept Map – graphic organizer, shows terms related to evolution and how they are connected
Evolution Crossword Puzzle – terms related to topic of evolution; darwin, galapagos, selection..etc…

Examining the Fossil Record – organize paper “fossils” to show change over time and determine when a species split into two
Explorations Through Time – explore Berkeley website on evolution, answer questions about geologic time
Understand Homology and Analogy – also Berkeley website,  focuses on specific body parts and how they compare across organisms
Understanding Evolution – The Arthropod Story – Berkeley interactive activity with questions
Comparing Life History to the Hours of a Clock –  place events, such as “bacteria evolve” on a clock

The Decay Curve of Twizzlers – use twizzlers candy to understand the decay of isotopes and how that decay is used for carbon dating

PBS Series Evolution – watch video clips, answer questions, the series is hours long, but the clips can be shown in class as part of the unit
PBS Series: Darwin’s Dangerous Idea – watch video and construct a concept map that illustrates Darwin’s development the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.  This is video #1 of the evolution series and has dramatic performances showing Darwin’s life and history.
Becoming Human – video clips and information website; questions that focus on human evolution and various hominid species


Interpreting Graphics – uses a map to show groups of animals and how they are related; such as canines, felines, carnivores..etc
Practice with Taxonomy and Classification:   reinforcement activity, focuses on kingdoms and scientific names

Dichotomous Keys (Norns) – practice using keys, imaginary “creatures” from an old computer game
Dichotomous Keys (Aliens) – more practice using keys, with alien creatures called pamishans
Dichotomous Keys (Smilies) – more practice using keys, with smiley faces

Fingerprint Classification – look at fingerprints and develop a way to classify them

Taxonomy Project – students create their own kingdoms, phyla..etc and design organisms
Alien Taxonomy – group and categorize alien species
Analyze and Construct Cladograms  – very simple cladograms showing how animals are organized by derived characters
Zoobook – project that explores orders and naming of species, taxonomic structures
Animal Report (chart) – go to zoo sites and fill out a chart on a specific animal (diet, habitat..etc)

Evolution Notes and Presentations

The Theory of evolution |  Taxonomy Notes

Presentations on Evolution and Taxonomy