Curriculum Overview

The Evolving Minds Curriculum is comprised of 12 lessons, with each lesson introducing students to a new concept in the story of natural selection. The curriculum is intended for second and third graders. Want the birds-eye view? Scroll down for a brief summary of each lesson!


Lesson 1

What’s the Story of How Plants and Animals Change Over Time?

Students observe and compare “Many hundreds of years ago” and “Nowadays” images of 4 animal populations in their environments. Using these images as evidence that traits in populations may change over time, they share their initial ideas about how this might happen.  They will revisit their initial ideas in Lesson 12.

Lesson 2

Are All Radish Plants (and Snails) the Same? What’s the Evidence?

Students observe and describe one trait in a population of plants (radishes) and one in a population of animals (snails). They consider how all populations of living things display variation in their traits, in preparation for thinking about why that matters when environmental changes occur.


Lesson 3

How Hairy is a Population of Radish Plants?

Students observe and measure the hairiness trait in a population of radish plants. They count hairs on close-up photographs of individual plant petioles and record their data. The class creates a line plot to summarize class data and use the line plot to explain what it tells us about the distribution of hairiness trait variants in this population.

Lesson 4

Why do Piloses have Skinnier Noses Nowadays?

Students view an animated story about animals called piloses in which the proportion of individuals in a population with thinner trunks increases over many generations. They reason about the sequence of events involved in the change in frequency of this trait variant. They use this sequence of events to agree on a series of generalized steps in the change process that explains how any population could change over time.   

Pilosa Simulation Cards Generation 1 (1).png

Lesson 5

How Can We Show That It Takes Many Generations for Pilosa Populations to Change?

Students count thicker, middle, and thinner trunks in pictures of three generations of a pilose population. They record and graph their data. They use their line plots as evidence to claim that, when the environment changes, individuals with a beneficial trait variant become more common in a population over many generations.

Lesson 6

How is a Population of Radish Plants Likely to Change When Hungry Caterpillars Arrive?

Students investigate a case of the radish population being invaded by caterpillars. They predict how the radish hairiness trait might change over time and use their radish plant data to test the 6 Key Steps in natural selection tool they developed in Lesson 4.  

plant page 2 (1).png

Lesson 7

How Did Anoles Evolve Stickier Feet?

Students use data from a video about anoles to test whether their natural selection model could explain how anoles got stickier feet. They examine statements made by other people about foot adaptation in anoles. If necessary, they revise the statements to align with the framework they have developed.

Lesson 8

What Happens When a Group of Piloses Gets Separated?

Students see an animation of a story about the miroungas, a species that evolved from a population of piloses. They examine how the story of speciation mirrors and differs from a story of adaptation like the anoles.

Fossil pilosa.png

Lesson 9

How Do We Know What Plants and Animals Were Like Long Ago?

Students hear about the discovery of an amazing fossil on “Mirounga Island.” They then watch a video to learn how fossils are formed and predict which parts of real-life organisms might be preserved by fossilization. Students figure out together why scientists were so excited by the fossil they uncovered.

Lesson 10

What Can Fossils Tell Us About Change Over Time?

Students explore 3 real fossils and a picture of a fossilized archaeopteryx and compare them to present-day organisms. They speculate about what the long-ago environment might have been like when the fossil organisms were alive. Finally, they use their knowledge of the mechanism of natural selection to discuss the fossils’ relationship to present-day organisms.

Archeologist Juramaya.png

Lesson 11

How Does the Story of the Juramayas Relate to All Our Other Stories?

Students view an animated storybook: “How the Harpies Evolved into Juramayas.”  They use the 6 Key Steps tool to depict this speciation story. 

Lesson 12

How Are We Thinking About Change Over Time Now?

Students revisit the “Many hundreds of years ago” and “Nowadays” cases from Lesson 1 and review and revise their initial explanation for how change over time happens. In small groups, they create a poster that illustrates their own natural selection story, either a case of adaptation by natural selection or speciation by natural selection.