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Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science
data as they investigate the misconception that humans evolved from apes. The investigations require two 45-minute periods. They are designed for use in grades 9 through 12.
Activity 5:Proposing Explanations for Fossil Footprints
In this investigation, students observe and interpret "fossil footprint" evidence. From the evidence, they are asked to construct defensible hypotheses or explanations for events that took place in the geologic past. Estimated time requirements for this activity: two class periods. This activity is designed for grades 5 through 8.
Activity 6:Understanding Earth's Changes Over Time
Comparing the magnitude of geologic time to spans of time within a person's own lifetime is difficult for many students. In this activity, students use a long paper strip and a reasonable scale to represent visually all of geologic time, including significant events in the development of life on earth as well as recent human events. The investigation requires two class periods and is appropriate for grades 5 through 12.
Activity 7:Proposing the Theory of Biological Evolution: Historical Perspective
This activity uses historical perspectives and the theme of evolution to introduce students to the nature of science. The teacher has students read short excerpts of original statements on evolution from Jean Lamarck, Charles Darwin, and Alfred Russel Wallace. These activities are intended as either supplements to other investigations or core activities. Designed for grades 9 through 12, the activities should be used as part of three class periods.
Activity 8:Connecting Population Growth and Biological Evolution
In this activity, students develop a model of the mathematical nature of population growth. The investigation provides an excellent opportunity for consideration of population growth of plant and animal species and the relationship to mechanisms promoting natural selection. This activity will require two class periods and is appropriate for grades 5 through 12.
The activities in this chapter do not represent a curriculum. They are directed, instead, toward other purposes.
First, they present examples of standards-based instructional materials. In this case, the level of organization is an activity—one to five days of lessons—and not a larger level of organization such as a unit of several weeks, a semester, or a year. Also, these exercises generally do not use biological materials, such as fruit flies, or computer simulations. The use of these instructional materials in the curriculum greatly expands the range of possible investigations.
Second, these activities demonstrate how existing exercises can be recast to emphasize the importance of inquiry and the fundamental concepts of evolution. Each of these exercises was derived from already existing activities that were revised to reflect the National Science Education Standards. For each exercise, student outcomes drawn from the Standards are listed to focus attention on the concepts and abilities that students are meant to develop.
Third, the activities demonstrate some, but not all, of the criteria for curricula to be described in Chapter 7. For example, several of the activities emphasize inquiry and the nature of science while others focus on concepts related to evolution. All activities use an instructional model, described in the next section, that increases coherence and enhances learning.
Finally, there remains a paucity of instructional materials for teaching evolution and the nature of science. Science teachers who recognize this need are encouraged to develop new materials and lessons to introduce the themes of evolution and the nature of science. (See http://www4.nas.edu/opus/evolve.nsf)
Developing Students' Understanding and Abilities: The Curriculum Perspective
For students to develop an understanding of evolution and the nature of science requires many years and a variety of educational experiences.