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EVO Teachers Guide:
Ten Questions Everyone Should Ask About Evolution

EVO Teachers Guide (and DVD): Ten Questions Everyone Should Ask About Evolution
Rodger W. Bybee and John Feldman. NSTA Press. 74 pages. 2012.
With 10 EVO-video clips. $15.16 NSTA Member Price as of May, 2016.


Draw on the wit and wisdom of brilliant scientists to inspire your students as you teach them about a challenging area of biology. This teacher’s guide, which accompanies the EVO DVD, is structured around 10 fundamental questions about biological evolution. The teachers guide explores the DVD’s commentary from some of the world’s most well-known biologists, who gathered on the Galápagos Islands during a World Summit on Evolution and were interviewed about everything from what evolution is to how it happens to why anyone should care. While the video from the natural world provides students with vivid examples of the ideas and processes the biologists describe, the classroom experiences further support and develop students’ understanding of a scientifically-supported theory and its applications. The rigorously structured teachers guide [using Bybee's 5Es approach] helps you maximize the video with lesson-by-lesson learning outcomes; thorough background; and guidance on preparing for and then leading the lesson—from initial student engagement through evaluation. Engaging, easy to use, and authoritative, EVO Teachers Guide and its DVD are must-have resources. [Each of the 10 parts is a stand-alone item, so they can be used with considerable flexibility. Each part is designed to be interspersed with discussion, with easy-to-use "Look Again" index. The book also describes several ways to use the material. Each of the ten video segments is about 10-15 minutes long, but facilitates stopping and discussing at various points.]

The EVO DVD and EVO Teachers Guide are also available for individual sale.
EVO videos are also viewable directly online at <>

Various ways teachers can use this tool (more examples on page xviii):
1. Use as the sole (or primary) resource in its entirety and sequence for an accurate and engaging unit on evolution. Probably not the best way to use it, but will at least be a fairly reliable experience for students.
2. Integrate with your current intro to evolution unit.
3. Use parts (e.g. #1-4) with your intro to evolution unit, then other parts to introduce other units,
e.g., #5 with genetics; #6 with unit on environmental science or behavior; #7 with overview of life, including the fossil record, or with earth science class; #8-10 as a year-end wrap-up.

#1. What Is Evolution?
As part of your ENGAGE phase, show a slide or two - or the real organisms - with a bunch of organisms in the same species showing variations (e.g. snails, beetles, gulls, flowers, etc.).
Point out in each case that they are all of one species, and ask (for each case) "Are all of these identical?" "Has this species always been here on earth? How do you know?"
Is defining "evolution" as "change over time" a sufficient definition for biological evolution? What other kinds of change do we see in living organisms? [embryological development, change with age, change with exercise? Overeating? Starving? Learning? Sun exposure?
Scientist points out that evolution is "both a fact and a theory." Click for further discussion of this.

#2. Who Was Charles Darwin?
Figure 1. ERROR: "1836" for "Departs England on HMS Beagle..." should be "1832". [He was on the voyage for nearly 5 years, returned in 1836.]
Perhaps you could precede this part with a variation lab, e.g., measuring peanut seeds to discover the variation of lengths in a species.
Before asking students if they have ever heard of Charles Darwin, show pictures of Darwin as a child, another about the time he departed on the Beagle, a third one in his later years (perhaps one taken in about 1859), and finally one in his old age.
Reading the passages by Lamarck and Wallace could be a hard reach for some students. In any case, it would be more "authentic" if students could read them in their original source, online. So provide the URLs for that. Likewise for the excerpts by Darwin.
Lamarck's Zoological Philosophy
Wallace's Letter to Darwin
Darwin's Origin of Species Intro

Another point: Quite possibly, Lamarck's (and even Wallace's) passages could easily confuse students.
Show class a list of all the books written by Darwin, and his research topics (barnacles, climbing plants, carnivorous plants, worms).
Evaluation could be a problem (reading 150 short essays). Maybe have each team of 4 compile an essay, with each student ready to respond to questions from the team essay, at random.
May want to provide a sample of acceptable responses (for teacher) to items listed under "Elaborate" (#6, 7, and 8).

#3. What Is Natural Selection?
Pre-engagement: Have a spray can of insecticide. Later, show bottle of antibiotic pills, asking "what happens if you don't finish the prescription?
Google for Darwin quote
Possible problem: Natural Selection is not explicitly differentiated from Evolution here; it should be. Also, focus more on populations, not individuals.
Evaluation could be challenging.

#4. How Do Species Come About?
When visualizing evolution with phylogenetic trees - in different forms - note that species connect at a common ancestor. Also, note that humans are not higher than other species. In the Background for Teacher, note in last paragraph (p. 20) that this stance against human exceptionalism might bother some students, and the teacher should be prepared for that, with something like "science places value on all species."
On page 22, under "Evaluate Students' Learning," last paragraph says "...and the need to adapt in order to utilize the available resources..." uses two phrases that sound like they are about Lamarck's ideas on the inheritance of acquired characteristics, where individuals develop new features that they need in order to survive. Unintended, but those are phrases to avoid when talking about natural selection, where "need" and "in order to" do not apply. Get students to hold up a hand forming a capital "L" (for Lamarckian) when they hear this.

#5. Where Do Variations Come From?
This question could well be an engaging opening to your genetics unit.
Ultimate source of variation: mutations in sex cells;
Immediate source of variation: recombinations genes-on-chromosomes (crossing over) and shuffling of chromosomes (during meiosis).
Show excellent endosymbiosis video (from Discover Biology, 5th edition, 2015 W.W. Norton.

#6. What Role Does Cooperation Play?
This question could nicely fit into your unit on ecology, or environmental science, or behavior.
Nice opportunity for students to focus on cooperation (vs competition) as a means to survival

#7. What Is a Brief History of Life?
Alternative: the ENSI lesson Patterns in Time, along with the classroom Time Machine.
This question can be used near the beginning of your overview of the living world (before or during your peek at the past: fossils and fossil patterns). Also suitable for earth science.
ERROR: page 43, Figure 3: Appearance of hominids... was closer to 6-7 mya.

#8. What Is the Controversy?
Under "Learning Outcomes" page 46: "understand the differences between scientific explanations and personal opinions and beliefs" (critical: should be addressed deeply in your intro to the nature of science).
Teacher Guide says "recognize and accept the views of other students...": rather than "accept," use "understand" or at least "acknowledge" that students are entitled to their opinions and beliefs without ridicule or defiance. But remember, beliefs and opinions are not science.
Excellent point that science vs religion is not a suitable topic for debate. Desired outcome of this activity should be the emphasis on recognizing scientific vs non-scientific views, that science and religion (and philosophy, law, art) are different ways of knowing, each with its own rules. Science is restricted to natural phenomena and natural explanations, requires material evidence, testing (attempts to disprove) possible explanations. Scientific findings have a fairly high success rate (in terms of reflecting reality) on which reliable predictions and solutions can be made.

#9. Is Evolution Random?
Focus is on three ideas: randomness, patterns, and purpose. Cleverly shows how we can get designs and patterns (suggesting purpose) without necessarily having a purpose.
This topic (question) is seldom adequately treated in science classes. But it's critical.
Important for students to recognize that evolution is a product of random events (mutations, recombinations, mating), all contributing to random variations, and natural selection (a non-random process) without purpose (or need, or "in order to..." or "so that...").
The results (evolution) produces patterns and designs without intentions (or, perhaps, that is the way that a "designer" could produce designs, if one wishes to believe that. But any such supernatural "designer" cannot be considered in science, because it cannot be scientifically tested. "Supernatural" means "beyond science," so any such test could be nullified by that supernatural power. Therefore, scientists attempt to explain patterns such as evolution without appealing to a designer or ultimate purpose.)
Students could also (or instead of) do the ENSI lesson Chaos & Order: Non-Random vs Random.

#10. Why Should Anyone Care About Evolution?
Students are expected to develop an argument for evolution (part of Common Core and NGSS).
Since each student is expected to write a brief (2-page) essay, this creates a daunting challenge for the teacher to read and comment on them all, especially at the end of the unit, and at the end of the year. Therefore, the teacher should allow for that time - perhaps by having students engage in some assigned reading, or watching an appropriate film or two that will further enrich and deepen their understanding of some aspect of biology. Also see "Why Evolution Matters" by S.R. Palumbi.