An Origin of Species: Pollenpeepers

Contributor
WGBH Educational Foundation for PBS
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Interactive Simulation
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

This web simulation allows students to explore adaptive radiation of a fictitious group of birds called Pollenpeepers over a period of 5 million years. A hurricane blows some birds to 3 very different island groups and students identify the changes that take place over time and their causes including different climates, food, competition and predators. Each of the three island groups are compared to the original habitat with respect to topography, temperature, growing season and type of vegetation. Students read about the competition that the birds face when they arrive five million years ago, look at the amount of seeds, insects and flowers present and whether the number of predators is high, medium or low. They can then go forward in time a million years at a time and see the changes that have taken place in the population of pollenpeepers in each of these time periods. Instructions to operate the simulation are included as well as a species gallery where students can explore adaptive radiation in lemurs, Galapagos finches, Hawaiian silverswords, tenrecs and Hawaiian fruit flies.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Middle School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

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.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The simulation provides evidence for students to explore, but the teacher will need to provide guidance in organizing this evidence and formulating an explanation. One suggestion is to assign a particular island to a group of students, have them make a data table for the species changes, competition, habitat, food source and predators for their island over the 5 million years. They can then identify the change that took place in their population of pollenpeepers, the selective advantage of the trait in the new environment, which population survived better, reproduced and passed their genes on as well as what the variation in the population is like now. Students can then present their argument on the causes to the class in a presentation or poster to try and convince them that the cause that they identified is the cause of the change in the population over time. Some of the questions that might be asked include “What was the average beak in the population like in the population like 5 million years ago and what were the variations?”, “How was the environment different on the new islands?” “How did this new environment affect the selective advantage of the beak?”, “Which birds survived better, reproduced more and passed their genes on to the next generation in the new environment?” and “What is the average beak like now in the population and what are the variations?” Students can then be asked to write a paragraph explaining how the process of natural selection occurred from five million years ago to the present using the answers to the questions above as a guide.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The simulation provides the data that can be used to construct an explanation of natural selection leading to adaptations, but the teacher will need to guide students in the process. Changes in habitat are documented as well as the type of food, competition and predators present. All of this data can be used to explain how pollenpeeper populations changed on a particular island over five million years. Teachers can guide students to write how this process happens in the form of a Darwinian Explanation where students identify a trait in their population of pollenpeepers five million years ago, the selective advantage of that trait in the new environment, which population survived better and why, which reproduced and passed their genes on as well as what the variation in the population is like now. Evidence from the of habitat, the type of food available, the competition present and predators that threaten them can be used as a part of their explanation.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
There are many patterns present in the data in how pollenpeeper beaks evolved in the population and how the habitat, food supply, competition and predators changed over five million years. Teachers will need to provide a framework for learning from this simulation since students may not see the patterns in the data and be able to form an explanation from them. A data table would be a good way for students to organize all of the information from a particular island as well as questions to address the elements of natural selection (variation in the population, selective advantage, survival, reproduction, heredity.) They will then be more able to identify the patterns that exist.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
There are many patterns present in the data in how pollenpeeper beaks evolved in the population and how the habitat, food supply, competition and predators changed over five million years. Teachers will need to provide a framework for learning from this simulation since students may not see the patterns in the data and be able to form an explanation from them. A data table would be a good way for students to organize all of the information from a particular island as well as questions to address the elements of natural selection (variation in the population, selective advantage, survival, reproduction, heredity.) They will then be more able to identify the patterns that exist.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This simulation offers a way for students to gather data about change in a population over time, but does not provide instructions on how to construct an explanation or about how to identify patterns in the data. Teachers will need to provide a framework for students to convey their claims to others. This could happen in the form of a Darwinian Explanation where students identify a trait in their population of pollenpeepers five million years ago, the selective advantage of that trait in the new environment, which population survived better and why, which reproduced and passed their genes on as well as what the variation in the population is like now. Evidence from the of habitat, the type of food available, the competition present and predators that threaten them can be used as a part of their explanation.

  • Instructional Supports: Instructions to operate the simulation are included as well as a species gallery where students can explore adaptive radiation in lemurs, Galapagos finches, Hawaiian silverswords, tenrecs and Hawaiian fruit flies. But there are no instructional supports about what to do with the simulation to further deeper understanding of natural selection, constructing explanations and finding patterns in data. Having students gather data for a particular island in a data table, find that patterns in the data that could explain how natural selection has happened in the pollenpeepers and then constructing an explanation in the form of a Darwinian Explanation would be one way to use this simulation that would involve three dimensional learning. No guidance is given to teachers to support differentiated instruction for English language learners, those that have special needs or those that are of high ability. You could also look at http://sbs.wsu.edu/evolutionary/6_8speciation.html for a possible way to teach this simulation to students.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: There is no student monitoring offered in the simulation, so the teacher should assess based on the student using the evidence in the simulation to back their claim and make sure that all of the elements of natural selection are addressed.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The simulation presents data in an engaging way so that students can explore the changes that have taken place in pollenpeepers over 5 million years.