This block in Science Studio we looked at topics related to evolutionary biology, and our projects focused on communicating results.

For the first half of the block, pairs of students prepared 20-minute lessons on topics I chose and shared them with the class. The first lesson was an introduction to the structure of DNA with an atomic-scale model built by the presenting students. The second was a short presentation on coevolution followed by a wonderful game in which each student decided how two species, predator Obledybups and Pedzwud prey, adapted to changing habitats and each other’s adaptations. The third was a presentation and worksheet on Punnett squares. The fourth was a presentation and practice applying DNA sequence alignment algorithms. The fifth was a game and presentation on mutations and birth defects. Finally, the last was a presentation and quick activity on mechanisms of evolution such as natural selection and genetic drift. Afterward, everyone took a quiz on all the topics, and everyone did very well!

For the second half of the block, we did a solo project I called "Alternatives to Time Travel as a Research Method". The idea was to pick a question related to paleobiology or evolution (something about things that lived at least 1000 years ago) and look for both answers to the question and evidence used to support them. For example, answering "why did the dinosaurs go extinct?" involved looking at levels of iridium in soils as a result of either a meteor or volcanic action. Answering "how did monotremes survive the arrival of marsupials?" involved evidence from genetics and fossils. Research on the evolution of horses looked at dental wear due to chewing grit. My goal was to extend our year-long investigation of the scientific method by considering how scientists answer questions when the normal controlled experiments or observations are impossible because the subjects no longer exist. 

Students finished this project by proposing a medium in which to communicate their findings. Their written proposals included a summary of their findings and a justification for why their chosen format was a good fit for their material. Formats selected included posters, models, essays, comic books, timelines, and videos. Some students may actually complete these projects next block, but it isn't required, so they were able to choose any format that seemed ideal. (For example, a student could choose detailed anatomical drawings even if they would not actually want to create such drawings.)

-- Emily Eames