In the middle of our evolution unit, students encounter artificial selection. To develop a deeper understanding of this concept, I developed a mini project for my AP Biology students. This year, the students really enjoyed themselves!
For the project, students choose an organism that humans have genetically altered through artificial selection. These can be plants or animals, livestock or pets. Each student must choose a different organism.
Once chosen, students explore the current characteristics of the organism, then research the evolutionary history of that organism. I ask them to find or create an accurate phylogenetic tree. With the tree, they can see how these characteristics have changed or remained over time. Finally, students think about how the evolutionary fitness of the organism has changed since humans began the artificial selection process for that organism.
This year, one of my new and shy students delighted me. She had no interest in choosing an organism at the beginning of the project, so I suggested horses. At the end of our second day working on this project, she stayed after class to thank me for suggesting horses. She spoke with joy as she told me how much she was learning about these animals and their history. I almost cried when she left – tears of joy!
After researching, the students presented their projects to the class. One student chose corn to research and brought each of us an ear of corn! It was certainly fun AND interesting. If you are looking for a different way to connect artificial and natural selection, evolution, fitness, and phylogenetic trees, give this a try 🙂