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Biology – Evolution Lesson Plans

Time: 40- 50 minutes

Summary of Lesson
In this lesson, students will discover the effects of mutations on an individual’s survival in their
environment. Students will observe whether mutations create an advantage or disadvantage to
the individual that possesses it and how that will influence natural selection. Ultimately, students
will determine how natural selection effects the appearance (or disappearance) of mutations
that arise in the population.

NGSS Science Standards

HS-LS4-2 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
Construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution primarily results from
four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the heritable genetic
variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for
limited resources, and (4) the proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and
reproduce in the environment. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on using evidence to explain the
influence each of the four factors has on number of organisms, behaviors, morphology, or physiology in
terms of ability to compete for limited resources and subsequent survival of individuals and adaptation of
species. Examples of evidence could include mathematical models such as simple distribution graphs
and proportional reasoning.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include other mechanisms of
evolution, such as genetic drift, gene flow through migration, and co-evolution.]

HS-LS4-4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

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.]

1. Student will compare and contrast the variety of mutations and observe their advantages
and disadvantages in the environment.
2. Students will predict how natural selection will affect the prevalence of each type of

● Nine pieces of starburst candy per group (groups of 3)
● Central location for the starburst candy
● Table or desk
● One cup (per group of three)
● 15 plastic knives
● 6 pairs of goggles
● Cotton
● Stopwatch
● Large roll of duct tape or masking tape
● String
● Paper bag containing the letters A through H

1. Handout or refer students to the variations and adaptations activity. There is a directions
sheet and a questions sheet. Each student needs access to one of each. I used Google
Classroom to post the activity but paper copies are great too.
2. Read the introduction, objectives, and procedure with with/for the students. Answer any
questions the students might have.
3. Students will get into groups of three and they will draw a letter from the paper bag. The
letter will tell them their mutation.
4. Give each group the materials needed for their mutations and help them apply them
5. Put nine starburst candies at a central location and each group is assigned a designated
home location. Groups will need to walk from their home location to the central location,
fill their cup with the starbursts, bring the candy back to home and process and consume
the starbursts. Each group will be timed and times will be recorded for the students to
see. (They will need all times for the questions that follow).
6. When the teacher starts the time each group will proceed to collect their starbursts, bring
them home, and eat them. When a group finishes, the teacher will tell them their time
and they will record it. An alternative to this process would be to time each group one at
a time. This allows their classmates to see how their mutation affects them and makes it
easier to keep track of time.
7. When all groups are finished, display each groups time on the board or overhead.
Students will need to record this information on their questions document.
8. Students will then continue on to the questions part of this activity.
Variations & Adaptations
Introduction: Mutations are caused by changes in DNA and can cause many
variations in the gene pool. Reviewing a few basic types of mutations can help you
understand why some mutations have major effects (good or bad) and some may
have no effect at all. Here is a quick review of the different types we learned in
our genetics unit: Substitution, Insertion, Deletion & Frameshift – any of these
could -

1. Change a codon to one that encodes a different amino acid and cause a small
change in the protein produced. For example, sickle cell anemia is caused by
a substitution in the beta-hemoglobin gene, which alters a single amino acid
in the protein produced.
2. Change a codon to one that encodes the same amino acid and causes no
change in the protein produced. These are called silent mutations.
3. Change an amino-acid-coding codon to a single “stop” codon and cause an
incomplete protein. This can have serious effects since the incomplete
protein probably won’t function.


● To understand and observe variations in the gene pool

● To recognize and adapt to these variations
● To observe how they affect survival skills in animals

Materials Needed:
Nine pieces of Starburst candy in wrapper (per group of three students)
Central location for the Starburst candy
Table or desk
One cup (per group of three students)
15 plastic knives
6 pairs of goggles
Stop watch
Large roll of duct tape or masking tape
Paper bag containing the letters A through H on slips of paper

1. Students should form groups of threes. Each student will simulate an animal
that can only digest Starburst Candy as its food source.
2. Random mutations have produced some unusual characteristics in recent
offspring. Each group will find out what variation they represent by
selecting a letter from the paper bag the teacher has provided.
3. The letter drawn will correspond to the characteristics listed in Chart 1.
This letter will also represent the letter of each group’s home location and
storage cup.

Chart 1

Letter drawn Characteristic produced by mutation

A Long fingernails (produced by plastic knives

taped to fingers with tape)

B No fingers (produced by taping each hand

closed into a fist)

C Lack of peripheral vision (produced by

putting on goggles and stuffing cotton in the
sides to prevent viewing from the side)

D Hands fused together in front of body

(produced by placing hands together in front
of body and taping them together)

E Feet and ankles fused together (produced by

taping the ankles tightly together with tape)

F No arms (produced by taping the arms down

to the side of the body with tape)

G Arms fused together behind the back at the

wrists (produced by placing arms behind the
back and taping tightly at the wrists)

H Blind (produced by using goggles taped over

securely with tape)
Each group should attain the proper materials and prepare itself to represent the
characteristic produced by the letter of the mutation selected from the paper
5. Each group should begin the activity at the specified location by the teacher.
The goals of each group are to:
A. Gather the food (nine pieces of candy per group)
B. Process and consume the food (remove the candy from the
wrappers and consume the candy).
6. To begin the activity, each group should position itself at its specified home
location. The teacher will start the stopwatch, and each group will begin with food
gathering. Group members should proceed to the area containing the candy and
gather nine pieces per group. These nine pieces should then be transported to a
container at their home location. The group will open the candy wrappers and
remove the contents. Each group member will consume the contents of three of
the candy wrappers at the completion of this process, the amount of time required
to achieve this will be recorded.
7. Each group will continue until the pieces of candy have been consumed and time
has been recorded. The time will be kept by the instructor on a stopwatch or iPad.
8. The recorder for the group will write the time required for his/her group to
complete the process on the class data sheet under the document camera.

Variations and Adaptations

Mutation Time

Variations & Adaptations Lab Questions

Make a beautiful, BIG bar graph using the time vs. characteristic (A-H)
information collected for each group. Don’t forget title and labels!

1. What are the four main types of mutations?

2. What kind of effects can they have on organisms?

3. How did the variations affect the group’s ability to get food?








4. What modifications/adaptations were used by the different groups and how
did this help them get food faster? (How did the members of the group deal
with their variations to accomplish the task?)