Clipbirds

Contributor
Al Janulaw and Judy Scotchmoor through UC Museum of Paleontology
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Activity
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 variation on the classic bird beak activity demonstrates variation of beak size within a population and shows how the proportion of big-, medium-, and small-beaked birds changes in response to the available types of food. The “birds” with binder clip “beaks” live in Clipland where the large population becomes divided into two smaller populations by a mountain range. Popcorn, lima beans and marbles are the three types of food available in the two areas. Food is spread out for the birds to eat and then after 15 seconds it is counted to see whether birds have gathered enough food to survive. The big billed birds need to eat more than the medium and small billed birds to survive and each bird needs to eat more than the minimum amount of food for survival to be able to reproduce. Four years pass during the simulation and students are asked to describe what happened to the Clipbird populations and what they think caused the changes. A link to Rosemary and Peter Grant’s research on finch populations in the Galapagos is identified for those teachers who want to connect the simulation to a real life example.

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 is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The activity helps students gain an understanding of the Disciplinary Core Idea of natural selection for this Performance Expectation, but more needs to be done to have them construct a detailed explanation. Students are asked to "write what they fell the numbers tell them" and then describe what happened to the Clipboard population and what they think caused the changes. A more structured explanation would include having them write this in the form of a Darwinian Explanation (see the tip for Aligning to the Practice below for more detail.) An alternate way to formulate an explanation is to have students make a claim, back it with evidence from the simulation and then state reasoning that ties the evidence to the claim.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
To help students analyze and interpret the data they could graph it instead of just “write what they feel the numbers tell them”. They can then compare it to real data from the Galapagos finches on Daphne Major that can be found in the at the very end of the activity (Finch Beak Data Sheet.) It may be helpful for the teacher to keep all the data as suggested and make a graph on a spreadsheet to show the classes their data versus total data versus the real-world data from Daphne Major. Students can then write a paragraph summarizing the comparison.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The directions ask students to describe what happened to the Clipbird populations and what they think caused the changes. One way to do this is in the form of a Darwinian Explanation where students describe what happened with the population of clipbirds, citing the variation in the beginning population, what caused differential survival rates including the selective advantage, survival and heredity and then how the population changed over time including the variation in the final population.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The simulation illustrates how natural selection produces adaptations in a population with bird "beaks". A connection to research on Darwin's finches is included so that students have an example of how this happens in the real world. A few tips have been previously mentioned in the Alignment to Practices section such as having students graph their data and having them write an explanation in the form of a Darwinian Explanation or in the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning format.

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
The teacher will need to make an explicit link to cause and effect. The amount and type of food available caused the effect of certain beaks surviving and reproducing more than other beaks. A flow chart with arrows to link the chain of events is an effective graphic to illustrate this concept. Variation of beak size in the Clipbird population causes some birds to survive better which causes them to be able to reproduce more often which causes them to more pass on genes for their size of beak which causes the population to have an average difference in beak size in the final population.

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
The teacher will need to use explicit language about the patterns in the data so that students recognize the emphasis on this crosscutting concept. They should be asked about the patterns in the data in their own activity and also the patterns in the data in the finch beak data. Figure 3 is especially important for emphasizing how the patterns in beak size relate to the patterns in seed abundance.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The resource provides an activity for students to simulate natural selection and adaptations, but they would need to do more explaining and of backing claims with evidence if it were to be fully aligned. The explanations that students construct should be more than just a sentence or two and should outline what the population was like at the beginning and the variations present, the process of selective advantage, survival, reproduction and heredity, and then what the population was like at the end, including the variations. The crosscutting concept of cause and effect should be emphasized.

  • Instructional Supports: The scenario is engaging for students and a real world example is given to help students tie together the Disciplinary Core Idea with the Practice. More needs to be done with the crosscutting concept of cause and effect. There are instructional supports included that give an overview, the lesson concepts, materials needed, advance preparation, time involved, grouping of students, teacher background, vocabulary, a step by step procedure for teachers and ideas to emphasize the nature and process of science. Graphics for food values and a map of the habitat are included as well as a data table for students to record their information. A link is given to the Grants’ Finch Study Data. No guidance is given to teachers to support differentiated instruction.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The lesson plans for the simulation suggests that teachers should tell students to “write what they feel the numbers tell them” and “ask students to describe what happened to the Clipbird populations and what they think caused the changes.” Teachers may want to make these questions more specific to find out what students know and can do. A Darwinian Explanation as outlined in the Aligning Practice section above would help with this aspect. A rubric with possible student answers would be a good addition to the materials.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -