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Elements of Biology: Matter and Energy
Elements of Biology: Matter and Energy
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: Life Science Duration: 3 class periods
 



lesson plan support
Student Objectives
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the theory of evolution.
  • Study how the theory of evolution has been received by society over time and consider why it has been so controversial.
  • Compare the theory of evolution to other ideas about how different life forms emerged and assess which ideas should be taught in science class.
Materials
  • Elements of Biology: Evolutionvideo
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Print resources about evolution
Procedures
  1. Begin the lesson by asking students to write down any controversies about evolution they may be familiar with. The controversies could be recent or historical. Tell those who are not familiar with controversies that it does not matter. Have students put away their papers until the end of the lesson.
  2. Ask students to watch the segment entitled "The Work of Charles Darwin" in the programElements of Biology: Evolution. Ask them to think about the following questions:
    • What are the basic principles behind the theory of evolution?(The theory of evolution states that new species emerge from earlier forms of life and that species change as a result of a process called natural selection. Natural selection holds that only those organisms best suited to survive in their environment will grow and reproduce.)
    • Why did Darwin finally decide to publish his findings?(He discovered that other scientists had developed a similar theory, which made him realize that the time was right to publish his ideas.)
    • Why was Darwin worried about howOrigin of the Specieswould be received?(Darwin understood that his ideas could be seen as a conflict with religious thinking. He was concerned that he would be condemned by the church.)
    • What was the initial reaction toOrigin of the Species? (The book was praised by the scientific community and received the expected censure from the religious community.)
  3. Tell students that although the theory of evolution is more than one hundred years old, it continues to elicit a strong response. Some people think it is one of the strongest scientific ideas ever developed, and others are bothered by its discount of the ideas about creation expressed in the Bible. The notion of intelligent design has recently been developed; it states that Earth's variety of species could not have formed unless an intelligent, spiritual force was also involved. Some people believe this should be taught in science class as an alternative to the theory of evolution.
  4. Explain to students that their assignment is to write an essay considering whether intelligent design should be taught in science class. As students prepare their essays, they should research the history of the response to the theory of evolution, including the Scopes trial, which was a challenge to evolution on religious grounds that took place 80 years ago; think about what a scientific theory is; and form an opinion about ideas that are appropriate for science classes.
  5. Have students research this issue using print and Web resources. The Web sites below are a good starting point:
  6. Give students time in class to work on their essays; if necessary, have them finish the assignment as homework.
  7. During the next class period, ask volunteers to share their essays. Then hold a discussion about their ideas. What conclusions did students reach? What evidence did they include to support their ideas?
  8. Conclude the lesson by asking students to revisit the ideas they wrote down about controversies surrounding evolution at the beginning of the lesson. What did they learn about the theory of evolution? Did this activity clarify their thinking about evolution?

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Assessment
Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • 3 points: Students demonstrated a solid understanding of the theory of evolution; made accurate and insightful comparisons between the theory of evolution and other theories; and presented a persuasive argument about which theory or theories should be taught in science class.
  • 2 points: Students demonstrated an adequate understanding of the theory of evolution; made somewhat accurate and insightful comparisons between the theory of evolution and other theories; and presented a satisfactory argument about which theory or theories should be taught in science class.
  • 1 point: Students demonstrated a weak understanding of the theory of evolution; had difficulty making comparisons between the theory of evolution and other theories; and presented a weak argument about which theory or theories should be taught in science class.

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Vocabulary
adaptation
Definition:A body structure or behavior that gives an organism a better chance of surviving and reproducing in its environment
Context:Charles Darwin observed different kinds of beaks on finches, which was an adaptation that enabled finches to survive in their environments with minimal competition for food.

Charles Darwin
Definition:A British scientist who developed the theory of evolution in the 19thcentury
Context:After observing the tremendous variety of life forms on the Galápagos Islands, Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution.

intelligent design
Definition:An idea that has emerged in the 21stcentury that states that the variety of life-forms on Earth could not have developed without a spiritual force with a preconceived idea of what life should look like
Context:The reason many scientists object to having intelligent design taught in science class is that it is not a scientific theory, which is based on observations and experiments that can be replicated over time.

natural selection
Definition:The process through which life-forms best suited to a particular environment survive and reproduce, while those less suited to a given environment die out
Context:According to Darwin, natural selection is set in motion by the fact that the world is a cruel place and can support only those creatures that are the strongest and best able to survive.

scientific theory
Definition:Ideas that are based on observations and experiments that can be replicated by others and have held up over time
Context:Evolution is considered by many to be one of the best-supported scientific theories ever developed.

Scopes trial
Definition:The 1925 trial between John Scopes and the state of Tennessee in which Scopes was tried for teaching evolution in his science classroom in violation of a recently passed law that forbade the teaching of any interpretation of the beginning of life other than the one found in the Bible
Context:During the Scopes trial, Clarence Darrow presented a powerful defense of John Scopes' actions; nonetheless, Scopes was still found guilty of violating Tennessee law.

theory of evolution
Definition:Charles Darwin's theory about the development of diverse life-forms based on the premises that all life developed from a few very simple organisms and that natural selection is the mechanism that caused these changes to take place
Context:Although the theory of evolution is based on a great deal of scientific evidence, it continues to evoke debate.

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Academic Standards
National Academy of Sciences
The National Science Education Standards provide guidelines for teaching science as well as a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate for students in grades K-12. To view the standards, visit this Web site:http://books.nap.edu/html/nses/html/overview.html#content.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • Life Science: Regulation and behavior; Diversity and adaptations of organisms
  • History and Nature of Science: Nature of scientific knowledge; historical perspectives
Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visithttp://www.mcrel.org/compendium/browse.asp.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • Science: Life Sciences ? Understands biological evolution and the diversity of life
  • Language Arts: Viewing ? Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media; Writing: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process, Gathers and uses information for research purposes; Reading: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts

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