Lessons in Evolutionary Biology

Lesson Summaries by Grades

The following table summarizes the Lessons in Evolutionary Biology by grade level.  For each grade level, the table summarizes the evolutionary content and the kinds of thinking skills addressed.  The lessons that are available for each grade level are also listed.


Big Ideas about Evolution

Thinking Skills :

Using Evidence to Make Inferences

Lesson Title


Grades: Pre-school-Kindergarten

Living organisms are made up of parts that function together.

Different kinds of organisms vary in their parts and in the functions of those parts.

Organisms can be sorted into groups based on their parts (or traits), and this sorting is important to classification, which we use to discuss diversity.

Learning to observe.

Recognizing relationships between an entire organism and its parts.

Recognizing that distinctions among organisms are based on differences in their parts.

Recognizing distinctions among organisms are important to classification.

Parts of a Whole

Classification: Sorting Objects


Who was Charles Darwin?


Grades: 1-2-3

Classification of living things depends on our ability to observe distinctions among organisms.

There is variation among all living things, and this variation is present not only among different kinds of organisms but also among individuals of each kind of organism.

Variations help organisms function in their environments.

Using observations to make distinctions among living things.

Using distinctions of living organisms to characterize them.

Using observed evidence to reason that variations among organisms are related to the environment.

Classification 1: Living vs. Nonliving

Classification 2: Sorting Animals

Variation in Populations: Looking at a Population of Dandelions

Adaptation to Change: Seasonal changes

Adaptation: Camouflage—Advantages to Blending-In

Fossils and Extinction

Charles Darwin’s Adventures


Grades: 4-5

Evidence for evolution can be seen in various aspects of the natural world.

Learning about examples of evolution in the world.

Using observations to infer evolution in the natural world.

Fossils:  Making Your Own “Fossils”

Stratigraphy:  Making Stratigraphic Layers and What We Can Learn From Them

Adaptation:  Seed Dispersal Strategies

Variation:  Exploring How Similar Organisms Vary in Different Habitats

Specialization:  Beaks for seeds

Charles Darwin and his Big Idea


Grades 6-7-8

We want students to make sophisticated inferences about natural processes.

These lessons address evolutionary time, fossil evidence for evolution, and how natural selection works.

We want students to be critical about evidence they use to answer questions.

In these lessons, we ask students to make claims about natural selection and adaptation to refine how they use evidence to formulate sophisticated answers to problems.

Age of the Earth

Adaptation:  How Populations Adapt (Or Fail to Adapt) to Environmental Changes

Descent with Modification

Selective Pressure and Natural Selection: Beanybugs in Slitland

Speciation: The Pollenpeepers at the PBS Website

Fossil Evidence for Evolution, Part 1

Fossil Evidence for Evolution, Part 2

How Charles Darwin Thought and What It Showed Him


Grades 9-10-11-12

Potential for evolution depends upon the presence of variation in populations and differential reproductive successes among those variants.

Evolution, including the origin of species, can proceed slowly or quite quickly.

New species arise from older, ancestral species.

Learning to experiment to answer questions.

Critical thinking about evidence.

How does natural selection create evolutionary change?

Modern Species Descend from Older Species: Modes of Speciation

Variation in Domestic and Wild Populations

Adaptation: Growing Sun-Loving vs. Shade-Loving Plants

Natural Selection: Exercise with Coins Demonstrating Sexual Selection


Tempo:  Short Versus Long Time scales

Evidence and Inference

Darwin’s Life and Times:  The Set-Up for Evolutionary Theory

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