Evolution is the central unifying principle of biology and yet, it is an area of science that is rife with conflict. This conflict is purely societal and not scientific, and unfortunately there are many organizations that have a vested interest in spreading confusion and doubt about evolution. If you are a science educator who teaches evolution, you are bound to hear misconceptions about evolution that students have picked up from pop culture, news media, and, in some cases, other science classrooms.
On February 9, 2016, we hosted a webinar with Stephanie Keep to discuss some of the common pitfalls and misconceptions that science educators encounter when teaching evolution. Stephanie is the editor of Reports of the National Center for Science Education and is a science consultant and writer who regularly writes about evolution misconceptions on the National Center for Science Education’s blog. Her presentation during the webinar covered how to spot and address the most common misconceptions and we also shared some of the best resources for teaching a comprehensive unit on evolution. Watch it below:
Below is a list of the resources that were covered in the webinar.
NOVA’s Evolution Lab
Create phylogenetic trees and explore genetic relationships between species with NOVA’s Evolution Lab. In this Lab, evaluate similarities in the traits and DNA of species, and conduct your own investigations in an open-ended interactive tree of life. Along the way, watch short animated videos that explain the evidence for evolution and illustrate it with specific examples. Come climb around the tree of life and see evolution—what some have called the greatest show on Earth—in action.
NOVA’s Evolution Lab Worksheets and Interactive Lessons
Explore the evidence of evolution with these worksheets based off of NOVA’s Evolution Lab. These worksheets contain questions for each level and video of the Evolution Lab and provide assessment on topics like cladograms, fossil evidence of evolution, DNA and genetics, biogeography, applications of phylogeny to health, and human evolution. The worksheets are divided into missions and are designed to be completed while playing through the game. The worksheets feature multiple choice questions, short response questions, and cladogram drawings.
The interactive lessons are digital versions of the worksheets and contain the same content from the worksheets.
The National Center for Science Education is the only national organization devoted to defending the teaching of evolution in public schools. NCSE’s Evolution Primers are written by NCSE’s scientific staff to explain key concepts or findings in evolution that are frequently misrepresented by creationists. NCSEteach is a network that brings science teachers together, allows educators to connect with one another (and NCSE staff), guides them to good-quality and well-vetted resources, shares stories of how teachers have dealt with challenges to science education and also connects them to early career scientists as a resource.
Stephanie Keep’s blog posts on the NCSE website cover common misconceptions about evolution that appear everywhere from textbooks to science news articles.
Understanding Evolution is your one-stop shop for teaching and learning about evolution from kindergarten through college. Get friendly, clear background information as well as animations, comics, interactive investigations, news briefs, research profiles, and a database of free, vetted lessons for your classroom.
The evolution collection contains short films, interactives, and classroom activities that cover mechanisms of evolution, human evolution, phylogeny, and more.
Teaching Evolution through Human Examples
This NSF-funded project from the Smithsonian contains 4 curriculum units for AP Biology classes that use human case studies to teach core evolutionary principles. The curriculum units include Adaptation to Altitude, Malaria, Evolution of Human Skin Color, What Does It Mean To Be Human, and a unit called Cultural and Religious Sensitivity.
Shape of Life
Shape of Life is a series of short classroom videos that depict evolution of the animal kingdom on Earth. Shape of Life focuses on biodiversity, adaptability, body structure, design, behaviors, and the innovative scientists who explore these creatures. Shape of Life includes videos, lesson plans, readings aligned with the Common Core, illustrations, and relevant resources.
The birds-of-paradise are among the most beautiful creatures on earth—and an extraordinary example of evolutionary adaptation. On this site you can find what few have witnessed in the wild: the displays of color, sound, and motion that make these birds so remarkable. Then you can delve deeper, examining the principles that guided their evolution and the epic adventure it took to bring us all 39 species. There are also free lesson plans that explore the topics of the scientific process, natural and sexual selection, behavior, and heritability through hands-on activities and lively discussions: http://www.birdsleuth.org/paradise/.
All About Fancy Males
All About Fancy Males is an eight section online interactive developed to accompany one of the most respected introductory evolution courses in the country—Cornell University’s Evolution and Biology and Diversity. This interactive allows students and the general public to develop a solid understanding of fundamental concepts in evolution while exploring rare behavioral clips and engaging animations.
Have questions about these resources or suggestions for additional resources we should add to the collection? Let us know in the comments!