Unit 2: Adapt or Die?

Why do species change over time and should humans intervene?

We start this unit by learning how scientists use samples of rock strata and the fossil record to create a timeline of Earth’s history, called the Geologic Time Scale. We then look at how scientists use evidence, including fossils, DNA, and embyrological data to create evidence-based theories about evolution. We investigate how organisms adapt (or not) to their environment and use math to calculate rates of survival, then discuss how natural selection is the process by which adaptation and evolution occurs. We read about the ways in which humans can influence species, such as artificial selection and genetic modification, and discuss possible consequences of each. Throughout the unit, students research a species that is at-risk due to human-caused changes to their environment. We end the unit with a Think Tank Discussion in which students discuss whether humans should intervene to help these endangered species, or allow nature to take its course. Following the discussion, students write a letter to a local organization in which they share their position as supported with evidence and learning from the unit.

Students will be assessed on nine standards (Performance Expectations) throughout the unit – including multiple choice and short answer quizzes, CERs and the final letter. These grades will span Semester 1 and Semester 2.

Here are the major topics & PEs covered:

  • Rocks & Fossils
    • LS4-1: Analyze & interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.
  • The Geologic Time Scale
    • ESS1-4: Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence from rock strata for how the geologic time scale is used to organize Earth’s 4.6-billion-year-old history.
  • Evidence of Change
    • LS4-2: Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships. 
    • LS4-3: Analyze displays of pictorial data to compare patterns of similarities in the embryological development across multiple species to identify relationships not evident in the fully formed anatomy
  • Natural Selection
    • LS4-4: Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving & reproducing in a specific environment. 
    • LS4-6: Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time. 
  • Heredity, Mutations, & Humans Interventions
    • LS3-1: Develop and use a model to describe why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.  
    • LS4-5. Gather and synthesize information about the technologies that have changed the way humans influence the inheritance of desired traits in organisms.
  • Culminating Project: Think Tank Discussion & Letter
    • ESS3-4: Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population & per-capita consumption of natural resources impacts Earth’s systems.