As Eli Meir has discussed, one of the take-home messages of our research on teaching natural selection is that students can benefit from repeated instruction on a fundamental concept.
Erin Naegle recently turned me on to Stephen R. Burton and Christopher Dobson’s Spork & Beans exercise, which appeared in the February 2009 issue of American Biology Teacher. More information is available here.
In Spork & Beans students attack prey using plastic utensils that vary in shape. Utensil shape is heritable, because it is determined by variation in a single gene. Depending on the prey available, different shapes are more successful at hunting, surviving, and reproducing. This causes the utensil population to evolve.
My guess is that a hands-on activity like Spork & Beans would be particularly useful in conjuction with the Darwinian Snails and Hardy, Weinberg, and Kuru labs in EvoBeaker. I’m planning to try this combination of lessons with my own students this winter.
Burton, S. R. and C. Dobson. 2009. Spork & Beans: Addressing Evolutionary Misconceptions. The American Biology Teacher 71: 89-91.