Lab 18: Environmental Change and Evolution is one of a series of lab investigations for the middle school student from the book, “Argument-Driven Inquiry in Life Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6-8” by Patrick J. Enderle, Ruth Bickel, Leeanne Gleim, Ellen Granger, Jonathon Grooms, Melanie Hester, Ashley Murphey, Victor Sampson, Sherry A. Southerland. Students use data on beak size of the medium ground finch that was collected by biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant who studied the finch population on Daphne Major Island in the Galapagos Islands. The average size of the beak of the finch population increased from 1976 to 1978 and students examine the characteristics of the medium ground finch and analyze data on beak size, amount of rainfall, and types of seeds available. They then determine whether migration, natural selection or genetic drift caused the change. Several questions are provided for the students to assess whether their argument is convincing, and students share their work with others in a round-robin format. During the round-robin, one member of the group stays with the group’s work and explains it to others, as they visit. The remaining group members go to other groups and listen and critique their arguments, resulting in a process during which every team evaluates each other’s work.
“Checkout Questions” are provided to facilitate student reflection on what was learned. Students are assigned a short investigation report to finish processing their experience. Significant background information is provided for teachers and to a lesser degree in the introduction section of the student handout. The standards addressed in the lesson are also included in the teacher’s notes.