Lesson Plan

Natural Selection

Dispelling Myths and Misconceptions!
Donna M.
Classroom teacher
Vista Visions Academy
Vista, United States
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My Grades 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
My Subjects Science, Health & Wellness

Students will be able to...

Describe how species adapt to changing environments.   

Explain survival of the fittest.

Use argumentation and evidence to dispel common misconceptions about evolution.

English Language Arts
Grades 6 – 10
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

The focus of this series of lessons is natural selection, but the concept is presented through the lens of presenting arguments to dispel common misconceptions about natural selection.

Begin the lesson by having students record their ideas (quickwrite) in Google Classroom about:

1. Adaptation

2. Survival of the fittest

3. Evolutionary purpose

Explain to students that they will be presented with the following three common misconceptions about natural selection in a short video:

1. Evolution is organisms adapting to their environment (an individual does not adapt-a species adapts)

2. Survival of the fittest (it is not the strongest or healthiest that survives, it is the individual who is most"fit" for a specific environment)

3. Evolutionary Purpose (there is no predetermined plan that progresses toward an ideal form) 

Show  Myths and Misconceptions Video from Ted-Ed during which students should listen for an explanation of each of these concepts, and define/explain them on their Google doc. 

During the upcoming series of lessons, students will gather and record evidence about natural selection to dispel the misconceptions.

2 Direct Instruction


CK-12:Life Science-Biology: Natural Selection requires a free sign in and contains detailed and informative videos, readings, interactive games and review questions. All or some of the resources on this site may be used to teach the concept of natural selection depending on your student population and time constraints.

I really like the Real World Application videos as they make the concepts and content relevant to kids.

Below is how I use the resources for this lesson:

1. Students use the interactive Links: Natural Selection: White and Brown Mice and Natural Selection: Natural Disasters  to explore the idea  that camouflage is a key aspect of survival and if the environment changes, the population will change because the camouflage is no longer effective. They record their observations and analysis in Google Classroom.

2. Students explore the Readings-Natural Selection. These consist of several different articles explaining the concept of natural selection, at various reading levels that can be used to differentiate instruction.

3. Give the Practice and/or Quiz as a check for understanding

4.Use the Real World Applications: Flooded Forest, and/or Making a Dinosaur to reinforce the concepts just presented or use them as extensions at the end of this series.

Students use Google Classroom to  record evidence that could support or dispel misconceptions

3 Guided Practice

Students will learn more about how traits make an animal "fit" for a specific environment and what happens if the environment changes by playing, "Who Wants to Live a Million Years?"

Students choose traits with the goal of creating  a population of organisms that will live a million years, even if the environment changes. I really like the fact that even if students are successful and their organisms survive a million years, the environmental changes occur randomly so in the next round, those traits will most likely NOT be successful.

The game reinforces  two concepts:

-populations adapt, not individual organisms

-traits that make an organisms "fit" or successful in one environment, do not ensure success in another environment.

Student record their observations and reasoning in Google Classroom.

4 Independent Practice

In the previous activity, students worked with imaginary critters, selecting traits they thought would be most advantageous to survival. 

Remind students of the three misconceptions for which they are gathering evidence in order to dispel. In this activity students will be looking for specific evidence regarding each misconception.

The PhET Simulation: Natural Selection, requires Java. In this simulation, students further explore natural selection by controlling the environment and observing mutations in bunnies. The goal is to create a stable population, not one that dies out or one that takes over the world! Students have control of the variables of environment, predators and food. They can pause the game and see graphs of the previous generations of rabbits.

There are several teacher-created worksheets on the site, published in Word. I find one that most closely aligns with my goals for a particular class and modify it to guide students through the activity.

Additionally, students should look for evidence from this simulation that provides arguments against the misconceptions presented in the Hook.

One of the features I like in this simulation is the bunny reproduction can be paused and the genotypes and pedigrees can be observed. For students who already have a background in genetics and patterns of inheritance, this information can be analyzed as students make connections between  genetics and evolution.

5 Evaluation

Upon completing the simulation, students use Google classroom to revisit the three misconceptions introduced in the Hook. Encourage students to think about how their ideas have changed from the original quickwrite. Students create arguments supported with evidence from the PhET activity as to why each statement is a misconception.

Misconceptions and key concepts to be addressed:

1. Evolution is organisms adapting to their environment.

Students should recognize that when the environment changed, the bunnies did not change color. The ones that were not camouflaged died and the rabbits with mutations survived to reproduce,  thereby increasing in number; hence the population changed.

2. Survival of the fittest 

Students should recognize that "fitness" does not refer to size or strength but how fit the bunny is to survive in the particular environment, arctic or equatorial. 

3. Evolutionary Purpose 

Students should recognize there is no predetermined "ideal bunny".  The appearance or phenotypes of the bunnies depend on random mutations and/or the environment. 

6 Wrap-Up


Real-World Examples 

On the Ck-12 Biology: Natural Selection Website, there are 33 examples (linked above) in a variety of formats (videos, articles games, etc) of Real-World examples of natural selection. They can be filtered according to grade level. If students are interested in extending their learning or looking for examples of modern-day evolution, this site has it.