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Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science
The organisms on which the insecticide was used.
TO THE STUDENTS: So far our hypotheses have had to do with just a few of these components. Which ones?
The hypotheses so far have concerned only "something about the insecticide" and "the condition under which the insecticide was used," items 1 and 2 above.
TO THE STUDENTS: The advantage of analyzing a problem, as we have done in our list, consists in the fact that it lets us see what possibilities we have not considered.
What possibilities in the list have we not considered in forming our hypotheses?
Item 3, "the way in which the insecticide was used," may be pursued as a further exercise if the teacher so wishes. However, emphasis should be placed on Item 4, "the organisms on which the insecticide was used." This item is developed next.
Explain TO THE STUDENTS: Let us see if we can investigate the interactions between insecticide A and the flies. From your knowledge of biology, think of something that might have happened within the fly population that would account for the decreasing effectiveness of insecticide A.
The students may need help here, even if they have learned something about evolution and natural selection. Here is one way to help:
Ask the students to remember that after the first spraying, most, but not all, of the flies were killed. Ask them where the new population of flies came from—that is, who were the parents of the next generation of flies? Were the parents among the flies more susceptible or more resistant to the effects of insecticide A? Then remind them that the barn was sprayed again. If there are differences in the population to insecticide A susceptibility, which individuals would be more likely to survive this spraying? Remind them that dead flies do not produce offspring—only living ones can. The students might thus be led to see that natural selection, in this case in an imposed environment (the presence of the insecticide), might have resulted in the survival of only those individuals that were best adapted to live in the new environment (one with the insecticide). Because this activity centers on the formulation of explanations, it is important to introduce students to the scientific process they have been using. Following is a discussion from the National Science Education Standards that can serve as the basis for the explanation phase of the activity.
Evidence consists of observations and data on which to base scientific explanations. Using evidence to understand interactions allows individuals to predict changes in natural and designed systems.
Models are tentative schemes or structures that correspond to real objects, events, or classes of events, and that have explanatory power. Models help scientists and engineers understand how things work. Models take many forms, including physical objects, plans, mental constructs, mathematical equations, and computer simulations.
Scientific explanations incorporate existing scientific knowledge and new evidence from observations, experiments, or models into internally consistent, logical statements. Different terms, such as "hypothesis," "model," "law," "principle," ''theory," and "paradigm," are used to describe various types of scientific explanations. As students develop and as they understand more science concepts and processes, their explanations should become more sophisticated. That is, their scientific explanations should more frequently include a rich scientific knowledge base, evidence of logic, higher levels of analysis, greater tolerance of criticism and uncertainty, and a clearer demonstration of the relationship between logic, evidence, and current knowledge.
Elaborate Give the students a new problem—for example one of the investigations from The Beak of the Finch5 or Darwin's Dreampond.6 Have them