Mutations

Contributor
The Concord Consortium
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Interactive Simulation , Lesson/Lesson Plan
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

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.  This lesson is introduced using a fish population and uses a set of questions to elicit student’s background knowledge and then transitions students into gathering data on a population of sheep.  Students investigate population growth when a mutation occurs in the population using an interactive simulation to gather data in order to create an explanation of evolution.  This lesson is designed to be done individually, however it could be done in groups depending on device availability.  The teacher has the ability to set up a class and assign the lesson through a portal on the ITSI website (requires teacher to sign up for the website for free).  The teacher guide can be accessed here after sign up. 

Intended Audience

Learner
Educational Level
  • High School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access with user action - The right to view and/or download material without financial barriers but users are required to register or experience some other low-barrier to use.

Performance Expectations

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

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on using data to provide evidence for how specific biotic and abiotic differences in ecosystems (such as ranges of seasonal temperature, long-term climate change, acidity, light, geographic barriers, or evolution of other organisms) contribute to a change in gene frequency over time, leading to adaptation of populations.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The activity guides students through a series of simulations that allow students to experience the concept of adaptation through natural selection when a genetic mutation occurs. This simulation uses a sheep population that develops a genetic mutation (represented by blue-colored sheep) that allows them to get twice as much energy from the grass they eat. In these simulations, students identify patterns in the sheep population when the mutation is neither favorable or unfavorable, and then again when the mutation is favorable. This student activity models the concept of adaptation through natural selection and gives students several visual representations (line graphs, bar graphs, the changing picture of the sheep and grass) on how this process could happen when there is a favorable mutation in order to create their explanation. A teacher could add a discussion about genetic mutations and how they could lead to a selection pressure. This could include a discussion on this concept that would also build upon lesson two of this series, Conflicting Selection Pressures. Another suggestion would be to have students go back and look at how they answered the questions at the beginning about the fish population, would they change any of their answers? Why or why not? They could also incorporate how selective breeding and genetic engineering have changed the agriculture business if these concepts are identified through student questions or class discussion.

HS-LS4-3 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.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on analyzing shifts in numerical distribution of traits and using these shifts as evidence to support explanations.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to basic statistical and graphical analysis. Assessment does not include allele frequency calculations.

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 student activity addresses this performance expectation using a computer simulation. Students run the simulation several times, in several ways, as students can manipulate many different variables including; selection pressure on or off, number of sheep, and adding sheep with the mutation. The simulations contain both population numbers and graphs that students can use throughout the lesson in order to compare the numbers of sheep with and without a mutation . Students look for patterns in the data sets, compare their data to the rest of the class, and use the information they gather to make predictions and support their explanations. One suggestion for better incorporation of the PE would be to include a more explicit section on probability especially if a student discussion and questions push in this direction. Student questions could lead to further investigations that look at breeding (or lack of) as identified in the further investigation section of the lesson titled ‘Fussyfemales”. A teacher could include other data sets based on local animal populations or data from a local animal breeder to investigate reproduction. Another way to extend the activity if student questions lead this way, would be to include making predictions based on data sets for selective breeding for specific traits.

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
Throughout the lesson students participate in a variety of simulations. Students run the simulation several times in order to collect data on the sheep population. As evidence is collected, students are required to save and analyze their data. This data is used to make predictions about future events and eventually used to create an explanation on how this populations could change over time if a mutation occurred. It also allows students to explore what might happen to the population if a different mutation occurred and links back to lesson one, "A Selection Pressure", so students can make connections across the lessons found in this ITSI Portal Evolution series.. The lesson addresses the practice in full however, a teacher may want to expand on the different ways mutations can help, harm, or have no affect on a population. Since these ideas are introduced at the beginning of the lesson student questions and discussion on this topic could help students understand that mutations are not inherently good or bad, as students have a misconception that mutations are always bad.

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
This lesson supports the use of statistics and probability by having students run the simulations several times in order to use the population numbers to create an explanation for changes in a population due to a mutation. Students use their data to make predictions about the sheep population and compare their data to their peers. As they run their simulation they record their data in order to use it as evidence as they create their explanation. The element that is listed above and referenced in the teacher guide fits the lesson, however it is a middle school element. Depending on the math level of the students the teacher may want to push their students by including the high school element which includes: determining function fits to data, slope, intercept and correlation coefficient for linear fits. This could be done by having students look at larger data set of populations. These data sets could expand to allow students to look at and make predictions about specific crops and/or genetically modified organisms, and how production has changed and will continue to change.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
All of the areas of this DCI are addressed in the unit. The simulations help explain how a population could change over time due to a mutation. This activity gives students data (in both pictures and graph form) on how populations can change over time and also incorporates ideas on how populations can fluctuate under different conditions resulting in adaptation. To expand this idea a teacher could include an extension activity based on the STEM career -Genetic Counselor by having students investigate other careers based on genetics, since the field has exploded over the past few decades. This could also lead into a class discussion about bioethics, however as this can be a tricky subject to discuss, a teacher could limit the discussion to animal breeding and plants.

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
All of the areas of the DCI are addressed in the lesson. Students first run the simulation and experiment with adding the mutant sheep. Next, students run the simulation first when the natural selection is off and then again when it is on to see how the variation in the population of sheep trend. Students then run the simulation with the mutation being favorable to see how the populations differ in the two scenarios. As they compare the two simulations they can see how the mutation affects the sheep population when it is favored and use this data to make predictions about future populations. In order to build a deeper understanding of mutations a teacher could include the investigation based on the STEM career, genetic counselor, identified in the lesson. A teacher could incorporate other scenarios that would lead students to ask about mutations and genetics and how this field has evolved quickly over the past few decades. This could also lead to discussions on bioethics or a unit on genetics. Some scenarios could include someone with sickle cell anemia, breeding animals for specific traits and/or a continued discussion on genetic counseling, and why it is important.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
This lesson addresses cause and effect relationships across the lesson and students are asked to relate the cause and effect relationship after each simulation. The lesson uses cause and effect very effectively to model adaptation due to natural selection when there is a mutation that is favorable and when the mutation is neither favorable or unfavorable. One suggestions for improvement could be to allow students to analyze their data from across the different lessons to insure the students understand that not all of these different simulations illustrate cause and effect relationships. Also note that the element identified in the lesson is from the middle school grade band, however could be expanded to include the high school element. This could include the introduction of examples of natural and designed systems (dogs breeding in the wild versus being bred for specific traits) that could elicit student questions and ideas.

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
Throughout this lesson students identify patterns of natural selection in order to understand population changes. Students are asked to look for patterns in the data they have gathered and compare it with their peers in order to build an explanation of adaptation. To extend the use of patterns to address the high school element a teacher could use the data to help explain both causation and correlation. A teacher could use several of the student data sets to guide students into figuring out the difference. Also note that the element identified in the lesson is from the middle school grade band, however could be expanded to include the high school element. This could be done by building on the career spotlight of the genetic counselor and expanding it out to include how someone could figure out if they had a specific gene or not.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson introduces the concept of adaptation through natural selection when a mutation occurs using the phenomena of a population of fish. Although the students do not go back to the fish population, the lesson does guide students in building an understanding about how evolution has occurred using the sheep population from lessons one and two. Using the three-dimensions, students build an understanding of how adaptations could happen within a population of sheep when a mutation occurs. Although the lesson uses the three-dimensions in concert with each other throughout the lesson, it does not return to the anchoring phenomenon (the bug population from lesson one) or the lesson’s investigative phenomen (the fish). Throughout the lesson students participate in a number of different science and engineering practices including using a model and analyzing and interpreting data to identify patterns that sometimes lead to identifying a cause and effect relationship and in some cases not. Giving students both examples and non-examples help them in creating an explain how natural selection leads to adaptations within populations when a mutation occurs. Tips for improvement could include: Expand the lesson to include discussion about how mutations are not necessarily good or bad, they are only a change in an organism Go back to the anchoring phenomenon from lesson one, A Selection Pressure, (the bug population) and revisit the initial questions to see if you still agree with your predictions.

  • Instructional Supports: This lesson does have some instructional supports including an optional activity that could expand on student understanding (some located at the end of the lesson and some located in the teacher guide). The phenomena is relatable and it is built on accurate science. However, opportunities for differentiation are not included. In order to make this lesson more accessible to a more diverse student population a teacher could create differentiation options for English language learners, students with special needs, and other diverse learners. Tips for including instructional supports include: Scaffold in reading supports that could include a text to speech option on the computer or a print copy if students need additional one-to-one help. Use a voice to type program or scribe for students that have difficulty with writing or typing. Create a graphic organizer for students that need written language support.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This computer based simulation unit has opportunities for monitoring student progress in several ways. The online version can be monitored by the teacher as students work their way through the lesson. If the print version is used the teacher can monitor progress while walking around the room or by having students print off the saved snapshots and answers. There are also natural breaks within the lesson to check for understanding. At the end of the simulations, when students need to share data and discuss their ideas with others, a teacher could use this as an opportunity to formatively assess students. There is a teacher guide included that contains front matter, guidance questions, and an answer key. Tips for including progress monitoring include: The teacher could create a rubric designed to be used with the student explanation sections. Return to the anchoring phenomena (bugs) from the teacher guide at the end of the lesson in order to have students revisist their answers. Were their predictions correct? If not, how would they change them based on what they figured out from the lesson.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The simulations provide different results to each student or groups of students as they progress through the lesson. Students are asked to store their simulation results in order to share out to the larger groups, as well as to document their observations. As data is shared a broader class discussion is used so students can compare data sets. The simulations are fairly easy to use as long as the directions are followed. Each of the simulations allow students to further their understanding about natural selection and adaptation by collecting and analyzing data in order to develop explanations. Each simulation is designed to be done several time in order for students to gather enough data to validate results.