How I Use It
I use this with middle school classes and follow the suggested sequence in the Educator Guide. In the "Build a Tree" activity, students watch short videos showing evidence for evolution and then use that evidence to add to the tree. I use the lab report function that is embedded in the lab, to record quiz scores and other information. I have to supply content about DNA because we have not yet covered it. The activity would be easier if students have that prior knowledge. My low literacy and ELL students need a lot of support to work through the activities. The "Deep Tree," activity was beyond the scope of most of my middle school students. The additional linked resources in the Educator's Guide from NOVA's Evolution unit are helpful. I especially liked the multimedia presentation, "The Zoo of You," because it addressed the difficult NGSS standard about embryology. With that addition, this lab addresses the first four NGSS Middle School Performance Expectations for Natural Selection and Adaptations.
This lab expanded on students' prior knowledge of fossils, using morphology and DNA sequencing to create a "Tree of Life." I like the mix of teaching content through direct instruction and then allowing students to act like scientists as they add additional information to the tree. The Educator Guide is well-organized with applicable NGSS standards aligned and additional NOVA resources linked, so teachers can easily create a unit around this lab. The Deep Tree activity provides a nice connection to Earth time with a more open-ended investigation that is appropriate for advanced middle school students or high school students.