Ken Bingman teaches ninth grade biology at Shawnee Mission West High School in Overland Park, Kansas, a typical middle-American suburb surrounding the greater Kansas City area. As the chairperson for High School Science Standards in the state most dogged by the controversy of teaching evolution, Mr. Bingman has witnessed the changes from the front line. When the state Board of Education removed evolution from the science standards, Mr. Bingman led the case that reversed the decision. Evolution currently stands as a strong component in Kansas's high school science standards. The district frameworks list the topics teachers need to cover, leaving the order of topics and lab choices up to individual teachers.
Before the Lesson
Mr. Bingman teaches evolution as a unifying principle in biology, interweaving its subtopics and labs throughout the course of the school year. Before Mr. Bingman's students begin their research projects on the evidences for evolution, they covered units on the history of biology (including an overview of evolution); atoms, molecules, and compounds; DNA proteins; and cells and organic compounds. Just prior to the lesson, Mr. Bingman reviews guidelines for conducting research on the Internet.
In this lesson students learn to identify misconceptions about and evidences for evolution. Mr. Bingman divides evolution into seven group research topics, and students present their findings to the class. View the Lesson Plan (pdf).
After the Lesson
Mr. Bingman used the student presentations to launch a discussion about common misconceptions, to carefully question students' misconceptions, and to point toward evidences for evolution. Mr. Bingman also gave students time to revise and finish their reports. The class went on to study the Galapagos Finches, the effect of a drought on the species over time, and other topics in genetics.