Bringing evolution to life in the classroom

As we develop the capacity of Arbor to enable investigating comparative biology, we will work with the education and outreach staff at the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) to develop modules for teaching about phylogenetics, tree-thinking, and comparative evolution.

We will develop a software interface, selected data sets, and lesson plans that will allow middle school, high school, and undergraduate students to engage with authentic scientific data as they develop tree-thinking skills. Exciting comparative data sets will be selected such that students can explore a variety of evolutionary scenarios (e.g., co-diversification, ecological niches through time) and investigate multiple questions. Lesson plans will provide background information and explicit suggestions for instructors regarding how these materials can best be incorporated into classrooms to teach evolution, systematics, comparative biology, and the process of science.

UCMP staff, with advisement from a select group of participating high school teachers, will develop two week-long, high-school level modules using Arbor (with adaptations for other grade levels). The teacher will field-test the modules in the classroom and provide suggestions for improvement. In addition, the teacher and UCMP staff will conduct a hands-on workshop on Arbor at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference (NABT) in order to introduce the concept to the teaching community and solicit additional feedback on the modules.

Ultimately, Arbor will be featured as a practical tool for teaching evolution at UCMP’s annual Evo Institute.

Arbor modules with be featured and permanently included in UCMP’s Understanding Evolution and Understanding Science websites with exercises and teaching materials geared toward making tree-thinking fun and accessible to everyone.