Next Generation Science Standards: Evolution Resources

Teachers need to be prepared to enact the NGSS.
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Lately, there has been a large push by the federal government to incorporate more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in the classroom. The latest incarnation of this initiative is the Next Generation Science Standards. Many states have already adopted these standards and teachers everywhere are reworking their curriculum to make sure all students are proficient at all standards set forth.

One of the life science standards that must be integrated into courses (along with various Physical Science, Earth and Space Science, and Engineering standards) is HS-LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity. There are many resources right here at Evolution that can be used to enhance, reinforce, or apply these standards. These are just a few suggestions for how these standards can be taught.

HS-LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

HS-LS4-1 Communicate scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence.

The first standard that falls under the umbrella of evolution starts off right away with the evidence that backs up evolution. It specifically says "multiple lines" of evidence. The clarification statement for this standard gives examples like similar DNA sequences, anatomical structures, and embryonic development. Obviously, there is a lot more that can be included that fall into the category of evidence for evolution, like the fossil record and the Endosymbiont Theory.

The inclusion of the phrase "common ancestry" would also include information about the origin of life on Earth and could possibly even encompass how life has changed over Geological Time. With the big push for hands-on learning, it will be important to use activities and labs to increase the understanding of these topics. Lab write-ups would also cover the "communicate" directive of this standard.

There are also "Disciplinary Core Ideas" that are listed under each standard. For this particular standard, these ideas include "LS4.A: Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity. It does, again, put an emphasis on DNA or molecular similarities of all living things.

HS-LS4-2: Construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution primarily results from four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the heritable genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for limited resources, and (4) the proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in the environment.

This standard looks like a lot at first, but after reading through the expectations outlined in it, it is actually quite simple. This is the standard that will be met after explaining natural selection. An emphasis outlined in the framework is on adaptations and especially those in "behaviors, morphology, and physiology" that help individuals, and ultimately the entire species, survive.

It is important to point out there are assessment limitations listed in the standard that other mechanisms of evolution like "genetic drift, gene flow through migration, and co-evolution" are not covered by assessments for this particular standard. Even though all of the above may affect the natural selection and push it in one direction or another, it is not to be assessed at this level for this standard.

The "Disciplinary Core Ideas" listed that pertain to this standard include "LS4.B: Natural Selection" and "LS4.C: Adaptation". In fact, most of the remaining standards listed under this big idea of Biological Evolution also pertain mostly to natural selection and adaptations. Those standards follow:

HS-LS4-3 Apply concepts of statistics and probability to support explanations that organisms with an advantageous heritable trait tend to increase in proportion to organisms lacking this trait. HS-LS4-4 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations.

(Emphasis for this standard includes using data to show how changes in the environment contribute to a change in gene frequency and thus leads to adaptation."

HS-LS4-5 Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in: (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species.

The final standard listed under "HS-LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity" deals with the application of knowledge to an engineering problem.

HS-LS4-6 Create or revise a simulation to test a solution to mitigate adverse impacts of human activity on biodiversity.

The emphasis for this final standard should be on "designing solutions for a proposed problem related to threatened or endangered species or to genetic variation of organisms for multiple species". This standard may take many forms, such as a long-term project that pulls together knowledge from several of these, and other Next Generation Science Standards. One possible type of project that may be adapted to fit this requirement is an Evolution Think-Tac-Toe. Of course, having students choose a topic that interests them and develop a project around that is perhaps the best way to go about meeting this standard.