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MUSE | Natural Selection | Unit Overview and Materials

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Section 1: The Nature of Scientific Arguments

Section 2: Comparing Explanatory Models

Section 3: Using Darwin's Model of Natural Selection

Section 4: Extending the Natural Selection Model...


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Unit Overview

The Natural Selection unit described on this site was developed for use with 11th and 12th grade students. If implemented as described here it will require seven to nine weeks of daily 45 minute instructional periods. The main focus of this unit is the development, use, and extension of the natural selection model.

The materials for the Natural Selection unit are organized into four sections:

1. The Nature of Scientific Arguments
2. Comparing Explanatory Models (Paley, Lamarck, and Darwin)
3. Using Darwin's Model of Natural Selection
4. Extending the Natural Selection Model to Anomalous Phenomena

Within each of these sections there are two or more instructional materials related to the main learning outcomes of that section. Our unit begins with an examination of the structure of scientific arguments. This is followed by an extended comparison of three historic models-those of Paley, Lamarck, and Darwin that were developed to account for the diversity of the earth's species and/or the adaptations possessed by organisms. As a result of this comparison, students understand that the Darwinian model is a foundation of modern evolutionary biology. From here they go on to develop an understanding of the model's components and then use it to explain realistic data. Finally, our unit concludes with two case studies that require students to extend their understanding of the natural selection model in response to data that seems to be anomalous. The case studies used in this unit are collections of information about the natural history of a particular organism. Photographs, habitat and predator information, mating behavior and success, and phylogenetic data are examples of the types of information that may be included in a given case.

Unit Materials

1. The Nature of Scientific Arguments

A. Unit introduction and expectations
B. Sequencing Events: The Cartoon Activity

2. Comparing Explanatory Models (Paley, Lamarck, and Darwin)

A. Introduction to the nature of explanatory models
B. Paley's model
C. Lamarck's model
D. Darwin's model
E. Comparison of the models

3. Using Darwin's Model of Natural Selection

A. Developing a Darwinian explanation
B. Exploring variation and heritability
C. Developing a Darwinian explanation for diverse data: The Seed Case

4. Extending the Natural Selection Model to Anomalous Phenomena

A. Monarch/Viceroy Case
B. Pheasant Case


Each section of the unit is described on an introductory page. From this page there will be links to the materials included in the section which will each begin with a page that introduces the material. At the side of each of these pages there will be a menu that will provide you with links to:

  • Instructional Notes
  • Student Handouts
  • Assessment
  • Examples of Student Work
  • Teacher Reflections