Category Archives: Evolution


Ever wonder why humans spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping?  Watch the PBS NOVA episode Mysteries of Sleep and learn the answer to that question and more!

Learn more about the connection between adenosine, caffeine, and sleep by watching the TedEd video below:


Turn it up to 11!

  • Create a sleep journal.  Think about the factors that might impact your sleep each day, then track those along with how much sleep you get each night.  Which factors seem to affect your sleep?  Which factors don’t seem affect your sleep?  Add and remove factors to help you dial in on how to get the best possible sleep each night.
  • Create a dream diary.  Record your dreams upon waking.  Write them down, draw them out, or narrate them into your phone.  Notice any trends or patterns?  How often are you able to recall your dreams?  Does your ability to remember your dreams correlate with how long or how well you sleep?  Does the content of your dreams correlate with your past, present, or future experiences?  Do you have recurring dreams?
  • Learning to remember. Feeling tired after a long day of learning at school?  Try a Power Nap and see whether it helps you remember what you learned during the day.  Are you more efficient at completing homework before or after a Power Nap?




  • Individually: Read the Interview with a Paleontologist and jot notes in notebook (what does a paleontologist do?).
  • Team: Geologist use an indirect method of dating rocks and fossils called stratigraphy. Stratigraphy is the study of strata on earth. Strata are layers. For this task, you will study a model of earth’s strata.
    • Observe the beaker of strata provided by Mr. Swart. Which layers are the oldest (has been in the beaker the longest)? If these strata were layers in the earth’s surface, what inferences might you make about the relationship between the depth of the layer and the amount of time that has passed? Answer in notebook.
    • Consider the three colored markers in the strata. If you found these colored markers in earth’s strata, which would you infer to be oldest? Answer in notebook.
    • Get the 3 colored envelopes from Mr. Swart. Each envelope matches to 1 of the colored markers in your strata.
    • Imagine that each envelope represents a fossil discovery. Which “fossil” would be the oldest? Which would have formed most recently? Answer in notebook.
    • Open the envelopes and observe the fossil pictures in each. In your journal, compare each fossil with each of the others and with modern-day organisms. What similarities and differences do you observe? Answer in notebook.
  • Individually: Complete the Pangea Gizmo (every student individually) to see how the tectonic plates affect fossils.
  • Individually: Read and take notes on the article in the packet “Explainer: How a fossil forms” and the Carbon dating activity. Answer in notebook.
  • Team: Create a poster that you can use to explain to your classmates of how fossils form and how they can be dated. Poster presentation must include the following:
    1. Description of their career
    2. Fossils
      • How fossils form
      • How fossils are dated
      • How fossils are important evidence for change
    3. Plate Tectonics
      • What it is
      • How does it contribute to theory of evolution

Physical Anthropologist

Physical Anthropologist


  • Individually: In the BSCS Biology textbook, read and follow directions for Physical Anthropologists on pgs 47-49 through #2g but skipping b and d.
  • Individually: Write notes on Interview with a Physical Anthropologist in your notebook
  • Team: Observe, measure, and compare mystery bones, record in data table (2a 1-2)
  • Individually: Write explanation (2a 3)
  • Individually: Read “Primates Show Change Across Time” essay on textbook p. 110
  • Team: Discuss questions 2c 1 and 2
  • Individually: Write your ideas in response to questions 2c 1 and 2
  • Individually: Write inference
  • Individually: Complete the Skull Analysis Gizmo
  • Team: Prepare a presentation to share with the class:
    1. Description of their career
    2. Hominid Fossils
      • Summarize evidence you found
        • Indicating change over time
        • Indicating relatedness of early and modern hominids

Developmental Biologist

Developmental Biologist


  • Individually: Read and follow directions for developmental biologist through 2d on pages 45-47 of the BSCS Biology textbook.
  • Individually: Write notes on Interview with Developmental Biologist
  • Team: Arrange the embryo drawings in order, compare with answer key, discuss questions in 2d.
  • Individually: Write explanations to questions in 2d.
  • Individually: Once you’ve completed 2d, read “How DNA provides evidence for evolution” and answer these questions in your notebook:
    • Where is DNA located and what does it do?
    • How is DNA used as evidence for evolution?
  • Team: Complete the Molecular Connection (cytochrome C) activity in packet.
  • Team: Prepare the poster for presenting with the class:
    1. Description of their career
    2. Embryology
      • What you learned from studying different stages of embryos from different organisms and how information is used as evidence for evolution
    3. DNA Comparison of Cytochrome C
      • Share the cladogram and explain how it was constructed
      • Summary about how DNA analysis contributes evidence to the theory of evolution

Evidence for Change

Welcome to the Evidence for Change across Time activity!  As part of our Evolution Project, you were tasked with identifying careers associated with the study of evolution.  We will expand on what you learned about those careers in this activity.  You will be assigned to one of four careers.  Your job: complete the assigned tasks for your career.  Some parts of the activity should be completed as a team.  Other parts are to be completed individually, with the understanding that the members of your group are available for consultation.  You are expected to actively engage in your own learning and to share your learning with others.

For this project, you will be assigned to a team of 3 or 4 students.  Each team will receive a folder.  Please keep the  materials in the folder organized as they will be used by students in multiple classes.  You are expected to sit with your team this week and use class time efficiently.  Please do not ask to change groups.  You will present your work Friday, so your research and presentations must be completed and assembled before class begins Friday.

This work will count as your Evolution Unit Final Exam.  To receive credit, you must complete all individual and group work, document all of your research, and turn in all of your documentation in addition to preparing and sharing your findings during the presentation.  This will be your final grade for third quarter.  Late work will not be accepted.

Once you receive your assignment, it’s time to go to work!

Evolutionary Biologist

Evolutionary Biologist


  • Individually: Read and follow ALL directions for Evolutionary Biologists on pgs 44-45 of the BSCS Biology Textbook.
  • Make sure the following information is written in your notebook:
    • Notes on Interview with an Evolutionary Biologist
    • Notes/diagrams of dissection
    • Coloring sheets complete
    • Answer to question 2e (pg 45)
    • Notes from essay, “Evidence for Evolution: Vestigial structures” Not the one in the book
    • Answer to question 3a (pg 45)
    • Answer to question 4 a-b (pg 45)
  • Team: Create a poster that you can use to explain to your classmates of how fossils form and how they can be dated. Use the half-slip in your packet that explains exactly what needs to be in your final presentation.
    1. Description of their career
    2. How each of the following is evidence for evolution
      • Comparison of chicken dissection wing with bat wing and human hand diagrams
      • Description of vestigial structures (what, why & how)
      • Description of homologous structures (what, why & how)

Radiometric Dating

Last week, we learned about Darwin’s voyage and how he collected data to formulate his theory of evolution.  We went on to study biological classification, using the system devised by Linneaus way back in 1735.  Previously, we learned that scientists collecting were able to date common ancestors of humans to over 3 million years ago.  Our work over the next few days will be to learn how scientists use radiometric dating to estimate the age of really old samples.  We will begin an introduction to chemistry, focusing our efforts on understanding the difference between carbon-12 and carbon-14 atoms.  Class notes are pictured below:

Next, we will watch a video introducing radiocarbon dating:

After the video, we will begin the Radioisotopes Activity.  We will read through the first few pages, and then tomorrow students will work with a partner to complete the activity which is anticipated to wrap up by Wednesday.

Biological Classification POGIL

We continued our investigation into the history of biological research by moving past Charles Darwin and learning about the work of Carolus Linneaus, the father of modern taxonomy.  To help place the concept of taxonomy into historical perspective, we took a few notes connecting the discovery of the structure of DNA, the publication of Darwin’s work on evolution, and the publication of Linneaus’ work on taxonomy.  Class notes are shown below:

  • Structure of DNA discovered in 1953
    • James Watson (1928- )
    • Francis Crick (1916-2004)
    • Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
  • Theory of Evolution, The Origin of Species (published 1859)
    • Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
  • Biological Classification / Taxonomy (Systema Naturae, published 1735)
    • Carolus Linneaus (1707-1778)

After the notes, students each received a copy of the Biological Classification POGIL and we worked through the first two pages together as a class.  Students who would like additional learning about taxonomy are encouraged to watch the Crash Course video below:

Students who complete the POGIL activity early are encouraged to assemble and share with me a Google Slides consisting of organisms from as many different diverse species as possible.  Each slide should include a picture of the organism, it’s common name, and the complete taxonomic naming (from Kingdom through Species).

On Friday, we will review the POGIL and work through the final problem of the (question 23) as a class. For the last few minutes of class, we will review slides 5-8 of a PowerPoint describing complex relationships between organisms.

Students are encouraged to watch a National Geographic video about zombie parasites this weekend.  The presenter, Anand Varma, applies his expertise in photography to the study of parasites.  Mr. Varma travels the world collecting specimen for study, and his ability to apply biological concepts to his work, think creatively, and drive to overcome failure make him and his work truly remarkable.

Darwin’s Voyage

Despite the disruption of multiple fires started by students in the restrooms, we managed to take class notes on the four key facets of evolution studied thus far (pictured below).  A few classes were able to begin the activity below the picture.

A part of Darwin’s journey to developing the idea of evolution was in the Galapagos Islands.  You will start by taking a tour of where he went and what he observed.  Go to Explore the Galapagos on the PBS NOVA website and go through the interactive tour.  Answer the following questions in full sentences below in your lab notebook and turn in for credit:

  1. Where are the Galapagos Islands?
  2. First click on “Explore the Islands” and read about three of the islands.  Summarize one observation for each of the three islands you read about.
  3. Look at “Darwin’s Finches”.  What do you think it means by unique niche, based on what the rest of the paragraph says?
  4. How are the beaks different and why was that important?
  5. Now click on “What Darwin Saw”.  You will be going through his various stages and reading about what Darwin said (if you have headphones you can listen to the interviews as well).  Summarize Darwin’s first impressions (just writing the opening sentence will get you zero credit, click for the full story).
  6. What surprised Darwin on the islands?
  7. What did the tortoises offer the local people?  How did it benefit Darwin?
  8. At first Darwin thought the birds were unrelated, but what ideas eventually came from his observations of the finches?
  9. What was the fallout (or result) of Darwin’s journey?
  10. Go back to the “Explore the Islands”.  Look at some of the interpretative panoramics and the animals.  Pick one (or two for a bonus point) animals and summarize their unique characteristics.

Your Inner Monkey

As a reward for a job well done on the Evolution Project and also because many students were on a field trip, we watched “Your Inner Monkey” in class today.  Students who missed class are encouraged to watch the first 35 minutes this evening and we will finish the rest in class tomorrow.  The video can be accessed for free on the HHMI website.  Students have the option of completing a guided video worksheet for one bonus point.