Bug Hunt

Contributor
Uri Wilensky/Northwestern University
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
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

“Bug Hunt” uses NetLogo software and simulates an insect population that is preyed on by birds. There are six speeds of bugs from slow to fast and the bird tries to catch as many insects as possible in a certain amount of time. Students are able to see the results graphed as the average insect speed over time, the current bug population and the number of insects caught. There are two variations to try for the predator, one where the predator pursues the prey and one where the predator stays still and captures insects that pass nearby. In the first case the “bird” catches the slow insects and the faster ones survive, reproduce and pass genes on. The average speed of bug should increase over time. In the second case the faster bugs come near to the bird more often than the slow ones. The slow ones survive more, reproduce and pass their genes on. So the average speed decreases over time. Netlogo is free, but will need to be downloaded to run the simulation. It can be found at: https://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/

Intended Audience

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 appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The simulation provides a phenomenon to be explained by natural selection since the speed in the bug population increases or decreases based on the selective advantage in a particular environment. Those bugs with the genes that help them survive have their genes passed on to the next generation more than those who do not survive long. To address the entire Performance Expectation, however, the teacher will want to have students construct an explanation from this evidence. It may be in the form of a Darwinian Explanation (see the tip for Aligning to the Practice below for a more detailed explanation). 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. Other examples of natural selection in the real world such as Darwin’s finches or rock pocket mice in New Mexico may be extensions to this activity. Students can then construct explanations about how natural selection operates in nature.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The simulation provides a phenomenon to be explained by natural selection. To incorporate the practice, the teacher will want to have students construct an explanation from the evidence in the simulation. It may be in the form of a Darwinian Explanation that describes the variation in the population at the start of the simulation, the selective advantage, which variation is more likely to reproduce and pass on their genes and what the variations are like in the end population. An example would be: “At the beginning of the simulation there were six speeds of bugs from slow to fast. The bird caught the slow ones more and so the fast ones were able to survive, reproduce and pass on their genes for being fast. The average bug speed in the population increased over time so there are now more faster bugs than slower ones.” 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.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The program simulates natural selection that leads to one trait becoming more predominant in the population while others become less predominant. As the “birds” are able to capture the slower bugs, the faster bugs survive, reproduce and pass on their genes more often. Teachers will want students to identify the variations in the population at the beginning, the selective advantage of speeds for the bugs, which bugs survived and reproduced most often and then passed their genes on and how the population has changed over time. Questions about how natural selection leads to adaptations may be added.

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
Teachers will want to emphasize the idea of cause and effect to students as they construct an explanation. The birds are able to capture the slower bugs more so the faster ones survived, reproduced, and passed their genes on for being fast. So the average speed in the population increased. You may want to add questions to the end of the activity to ask students what was the cause of the change in the population. Another way to illustrate this is to have students fill in a flow chart that has all of the parts of a Darwinian Explanation. Variation of speeds in the bug population causes the fast ones to survive which causes them to be able to reproduce which causes them to pass on fast genes which causes the population to have a greater average speed in the final population.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The two disciplinary core ideas of natural selection and adaptation are addressed with this simulation, but no practice or explicit crosscutting concept are identified as a part of the activity. They could be easily added as the teacher guides students to construct explanations based on evidence. It may be in the form of a Darwinian Explanation (see the Alignment to Practice for a detailed explanation). 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. The crosscutting concepts of patterns and cause and effect could be made more explicit. This could be done by adding questions to the end of the activity to ask students what was the cause of the change in the population. Another way to illustrate this is to have students fill in a flow chart that has all of the parts of a Darwinian Explanation. (See Alignment to the Crosscutting Concepts for a more detailed explanation.)

  • Instructional Supports: The Instructional supports include a section on what is included in the simulation and how it works, but not much about how to use it in the classroom. Teachers will need to provide a way for students to construct an explanation for the phenomenon as well as having the cross cutting concept of cause and effect to be more explicit. No support for differentiation for ability levels or ELL is provided. Since this is similar to a video game most students should be able to complete the activity, but will need more guidance to connect it to natural selection and adaptation.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: There are no suggestions about how to assess student progress. If students construct an explanation to explain how natural selection connects to the activity, then a rubric can be written to evaluate if they included all of the aspects of natural selection leading to adaptations and the evidence that they collected to back that explanation. A flow chart could assess their understanding of the crosscutting concept of cause and effect.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The simulation is older, but still includes the elements needed to have students construct and explanation about “natural” phenomena. One problem is that it was written in Java and will not operate on many web browsers. A fix for this problem is to download Netlogo which is free from https://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/