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Teachers may be posed with such questions as, “If we evolved from chimps, why arc there still chimps?” We provide teachers with answers to this and related questions in the context of the latest genetic, fossil, and behavioral evidence. We also provide references they can use to further students' understanding of human evolution and evolution in general. In the process, we highlight recent discoveries in paleontology, molecular evolution, and comparative genomics. Modern chimps and humans shared a now extinct common ancestor that was neither a chimp nor a human — in other words, humans did not evolve from chimps — and, though chimps are humans' closest living relatives, we arc characterized by distinct evolutionary histories.
This article recounts the story of the development of pangenesis, a principle proposed by Charles Darwin to desctibe the rules of inheritance and the source of new variation, two concepts vital to his proposal of evolution by natural selection. Historical accounts such as this are infrequently included in texts and classroom discussions hut can serve a number of useful proposes. Pangenesis was ultimately shown to be an inaccurate idea, and one of Darwin's few errors, but this account is an interesting case study to illustrate both how science itself works and a rare glimpse into Darwin's thinking and personality.
Studies of students' thinking about natural selection have revealed that the scenarios in which students reason evoke different types, magnitudes, and arrangements of knowledge elements and misconceptions. Diagnostic tests are needed that probe students' thinking across a representative array of evolutionary contexts. The ACORNS is a diagnostic test that treats different evolutionary contexts as unique scenarios worthy of focused assessment and targeted instruction. Our investigations revealed that ACORNS scores produce valid and reliable inferences about students' thinking about natural selection. We urge biology teachers at all educational levels to begin assessing and attending to their students' reasoning across a broader array of evolutionary contexts, as competency in one context is often not indicative of competency in another.
The video game SPORE was found to hold characteristics that stimulate higher-order thinking even though it rated poorly for accurate science. Interested in evaluating whether a scientifically inaccurate video game could he used effectively, we exposed students to SPORE during an evolution course. Students that played the game reported that they spent an average of 3 hours more a week with class material; these same students also scored about 5% higher on examinations and in the course. Methods to use SPORE to teach evolution are included; to create a teaching community that uses this game might make this edutainment product an even more effective tool.
This activity uses inquiry to investigate how large changes in shape can evolve from small changes in the timing of development. Students measure skull shape in fetal, infant, juvenile, and adult chimpanzees and compare them to adult skulls of Homo sapiens, Homo erectus, and Australopithecus afarensis. They conclude by re-interpreting their findings in light of Ardipithecus ramidus.
Students discover the factors contributing to species losses worldwide by conducting a project about endangered species as a component of a larger classroom theme of biodiversity. Groups conduct research using online endangered-species databases and present results to the class using PowerPoint. Students will improve computer research abilities as well as develop organizational, writing, and public-speaking skills. This topic can be used for most educational levels by adjusting the difficulty of the content.
We describe an activity that uses cards to simulate evolution. The mechanism of the evolutionary pressure in the simulation is clearly indicated for the students. This simulation is useful for allowing student experimentation by varying conditions.