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Introduction to forces that drive evolution


Author: _Rachel Meyer________________ Date: ___2.2.12_____________ Act. #_______

Activity Description/Rationale

This is the first lesson of The Evolution of Food where you will introduce the scope of the course including the syllabus and course description.

Use the powerpoint about the domestication history of eggplant and a handful of other species, which are example of the dynamic processes of domestication and the political implications they may have. 

Estimated Time of Activity: 90 minutes

Goals: Process Skills, Content Knowledge, Attitudes:

Students will…

Get familiar with the course theme and learn why studying food history has many interdisciplinary uses


Present the powerpoint that goes with this presentation. Detailed notes are below each slide. 

We will make a concept map about food so a whiteboard or something similar is needed

Space to play, and a bunch of beans (at least 4 kinds of different colors and sizes)


Distribute syllabus, introduce yourself and learn a about the students (10 min). Present powerpoint (30 min) with informal discussion throughout and then do a concept map to follow (10 min). Break (5-10 min). 

Activity Instructions:

Activity time: 30 min

  1. Do an activity where you review natural selection and then discuss artificial selection.
  2. There are two activities for this to choose from. Teddy grahams or beans. I am going with beans because it is easier. The Teddy activity actually requires students to calculate deviance from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium.
  3. Full instructions are in the activity links, but essentially, you just toss 100 beans and give students 15 seconds to pick them up, and repeat the pick-ups over several iterations. Then take those, and toss them somewhere else,  and pick up. At the end tally what colors you have. Talk about allele frequency differences among beans from different groups of students. 
  4. Wrap up the activity distinguishing natural selection from artificial selection. 


Have students take notes during the powerpoint

Do bean toss or teddy graham activity



Instructor’s Notes: 

The powerpoint is meant to get students to understand what plant science is and how botany and agriculture are connected to many other subjects and to industry. It also outlines the first 6 classes (the first unit)


The concept map is your form of assessment, it allows you to see what students are interested in and what they have had exposure to concerning crops.

Informally assess whether the students have a clear idea of evolutionary theory including natural selection versus artificial selection. Make sure to highlight that artificial selection must involve humans, and that for all selection, thinking of an organism at the population level is best. The shifts in allele frequency caused by mutation and subsequent selection over time in a population is the key concept we want students to grasp. 

The bean toss game is meant to get students thinking of diversity and evolution on a population level. At the end of the game, I tally the results on the board and discuss which team used a technique that caused the strongest selection pressure to "bottleneck" the population into fewer available alleles, or for the population to "drift" for favor certain alleles over others (e.g. black beans over beige beans). If you want to make this a more formal vocabulary lesson, by all means, do it. We don't have any formal vocabulary-building days in the course, so depending on your students, it may be useful here.