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    Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

Performance Expectations

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

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  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. HS-LS4-2

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  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-LS4-3

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  4. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations. HS-LS4-4

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  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. HS-LS4-5

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

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary

A Peformance Expectation (PE) is what a student should be able to do to show mastery of a concept. Some PEs include a Clarification Statement and/or an Assessment Boundary. These can be found by clicking the PE for "More Info." By hovering over a PE, its corresponding pieces from the Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts will be highlighted.

Science and Engineering Practices

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data.

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Mathematical and computational thinking in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions.

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories.

Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Engaging in argument from evidence in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using appropriate and sufficient evidence and scientific reasoning to defend and critique claims and explanations about the natural and designed world(s). Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science.

Disciplinary Core Ideas


By clicking on a specific Science and Engineering Practice, Disciplinary Core Idea, or Crosscutting Concept, you can find out more information on it. By hovering over one you can find its corresponding elements in the PEs.

Planning Curriculum

Common Core State Standards Connections


  • RST.11-12.1 - Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to important distinctions the author makes and to any gaps or inconsistencies in the account. (HS-LS4-1), (HS-LS4-2), (HS-LS4-3), (HS-LS4-4)
  • RST.11-12.8 - Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information. (HS-LS4-5)
  • SL.11-12.4 - Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks. (HS-LS4-1), (HS-LS4-2)
  • WHST.11-12.7 - Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. (HS-LS4-6)
  • WHST.11-12.9 - Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. (HS-LS4-1), (HS-LS4-2), (HS-LS4-3), (HS-LS4-4), (HS-LS4-5)
  • WHST.9-12.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. (HS-LS4-1), (HS-LS4-2), (HS-LS4-3), (HS-LS4-4)
  • WHST.9-12.5 - Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (HS-LS4-6)


  • MP.2 - Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (HS-LS4-1), (HS-LS4-2), (HS-LS4-3), (HS-LS4-4), (HS-LS4-5)
  • MP.4 - Model with mathematics. (HS-LS4-2)

Model Course Mapping

First Time Visitors

Resources & Lesson Plans

  • More resources added each week!
    A team of teacher curators is working to find, review, and vet online resources that support the standards. Check back often, as NSTA continues to add more targeted resources.
  • Mutations is the final lesson in a three lesson series that includes "A Selection Pressure" and "Conflicting Selection Pressures" from Innovative Technology in Science Inquiry,  that leads students to make sense of evolution. ...

  • Conflicting Selection Pressures is the second lesson from Innovative Technology in Science Inquiry, in a three lesson series that leads students to make sense of evolution.  This lesson is meant to be used after A Selection Pressure which contai ...

  • This lesson is designed to allow students the experience of how a population can change based on changes to the environment.  Students will use their own data from an interactive simulation (a paper based model is also available in the related d ...

  • This lesson from HHMI BioInteractive is based on the classic study of the evolution of fur color in rock pocket mouse populations. It supports the short film, “The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and Adaptation.”  The creato ...

  • Thermoregulation in Dinosaurs is one of a series of Data Point resources from HHMI Biointeractive. Data Points engage students in analyzing and interpreting data from primary literature in the biological sciences.  The resources are intended to ...

  •   This lesson is designed to accompany a short film by HHMI BioInteractive. In the film, Penn State University anthropologist Dr. Nina Jablonski discusses the evidence for the natural selection of human skin color. She describes how the pheno ...

  •   The phenomenon of tuskless elephants can lead students to figure out many scientific concepts including:  natural selection, adaptation, genetics, ecology, and human impact.  This short video introduces tusklessness (due to poachi ...

  • This three-dimensional storyline unit from Next Generation Science Storylines (http://www.nextgenstorylines.org/) consists of three “bends” that engage students in a series of phenomena related to natural selection and evolution.  Ea ...

  • Teacher-fellows at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station at Michigan State University  designed this board game to engage students in three-dimensional learning as they explore the phenomenon of human impact on biodiversity and the environment. St ...

  • The SimRiver Simulation, developed by Dr. Shigeki Mayama’s lab at Tokyo Gakugei University, models human impact on water quality of a river. Settings within the simulation help students to make sense of this phenomenon by allowing them to mimic ...

  • This article in NSTA’s February 2016 issue of “The Science Teacher” describes how “cover boards” can be used to create microhabitats, models of ecosystems, that allow students to investigate  interactions under diff ...

  • Effects of Natural Selection on Finch Beak Size is one of a series of Data Point resources from HHMI Biointeractive.  Data Points engage students in analyzing and interpreting data from primary literature in the biological sciences.  The re ...

  • Schooling Behavior of Stickleback Fish from Different Habitats is one of a series of Data Point resources from HHMI Biointeractive.  Data Points engage students in analyzing and interpreting data from primary literature in the biological science ...

  • This article in NSTA’s September 2013 edition of The Science Teacher describes a unit on natural selection that encompasses eleven 55 minute class periods. A series of activities asks students to explain and make sense of a variety of phenomena ...

  • This interactive simulation allows students to explore natural selection in bunnies by controlling factors in the environment (equator or arctic environment), selection factors (wolves, food), and characteristics of the bunnies (fur color, tail lengt ...

  • This is one of 25 assessment probes from the book,” Uncovering Student Ideas in Science, Volume 2: 25 More Formative Assessment Probes”, by Page Keeley and co-authors. All assessment probes in this collection are aligned to a particular science conce ...

  • This is one of 30 lessons from the NSTA Press book Scientific Argumentation in Biology. The lesson engages students in an argumentation cycle in which they use evidence from their analysis of the amino acid sequences 1-40 for the hemoglobin subunit ...

  • This activity provides an introduction to natural selection and the role of genetic variation by asking students to analyze illustrations of rock pocket mouse populations (dark/light fur) on different color substrates in the Sonoran Desert (light/dar ...

  • This virtual evolution lab utilizes data collection and analysis to allow students to study evolutionary processes using modern stickleback fish and fossil specimens. Students virtually analyze the pelvic structures of the threespine stickleback f ...

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Planning Curriculum gives connections to other areas of study for easier curriculum creation.