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Teaching the Biological Evolution Standards for Middle School

 Are you a teacher who needs to teach the Biological Evolution standards for Middle School Science and you are concerned about certain parents being upset? Biological evolution can be a surprisingly controversial topic.

Biological Evolution in Middle School addresses changes in species over time. Students will learn about natural selection and survival of the fittest according to Darwin’s theory. Students will also learn about patterns in the fossil record that show changes in species over time. They will learn about similarities in anatomy and embryology that support the idea of evolution. Students will also learn about artificial selection or selective breeding and the technologies that have enabled scientists to create GMOs, gene therapy, and breed for specific traits. 

Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest

 I like to provide direct information through informational text about natural selection and biological evolution. Then I like students to interact with the materials by asking questions, playing with drag and drop interactive slides, thinking critically, and more.

Interactive Slides for Natural Selection

By the end of elementary school, students should know that individual organisms of the same kind differ in their characteristics and that sometimes these variations give individuals an advantage in surviving and reproducing. In addition, students should be able to look for ways in which organisms in one habitat differ from those in another and to consider how some of those differences are helpful to their survival.

Natural Selection Simulation

This prerequisite knowledge should help middle-school students take this concept a step further by understanding that individual organisms of different kinds are more likely than others to survive and have offspring because of their particular traits. In addition, by the end of middle school, students should understand that small differences between parent organisms and offspring accumulate arise through genetic mutation. If these variations provide an advantage to the offspring, the offspring may live long enough to breed and pass on these same traits through reproduction. Specific traits that are beneficial may accumulate in a population, which could result in speciation, the separation of a population be characteristics into a separate species from the original population.

We want to also address misconceptions about natural selection. The mice do not turn black because the rocks are dark. Animals do not spontaneously develop a characteristic in response to their environment. The random mutation produces a characteristic purely by chance. It is then the process of natural selection or survival of the fittest that determines if that trait is advantageous to the organism. Many traits arise that make no difference to a species, so they do not get passed on through evolution.

The Biological Evolution Standards for Middle School

These standards are addressed in this resource:

NGSS MS-LS4-6. Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.  [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on using mathematical models, probability statements, and proportional reasoning to support explanations of trends in changes to populations over time.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include Hardy Weinberg calculations.]

NGSS MS-LS4-4. Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on using simple probability statements and proportional reasoning to construct explanations

Utah SEEd Standard 7.5.1

Construct an explanation that describes how the genetic variation of traits in a population can affect some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment. Over time, specific traits may increase or decrease in populations. Emphasize the use of proportional reasoning to support explanations of trends in changes to populations over time. Examples could include camouflage, a variation of body shape, speed and agility, or drought tolerance. (LS4.B, LS4.C)

Natural Selection Worksheet Biological Evolution Standards

Artificial Selection For Middle School

Another similar standard is teaching about artificial selection in all forms. Students will learn about technologies that have allowed humans to favor certain traits.  This includes selective breeding, creating hybrids, gene therapy, and genetically modified foods.  This is a fun topic to have students explore the ethical implications of creating hybrids and genetically modified crops.

Biological Evolution Standards

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