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Using pipe cleaners to bring the Tree of Life to life


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Students build a phylogenetic tree from pipe cleaners that allows them to rotate branches, compare topologies, map complete lineages, identify informative phylogenetic features, and examine the effects of superficial structural changes on the tree.

The American Biology Teacher

Grade level:

15 minutes

Teaching tips:
This is not a complete lesson in itself, but presents a useful manipulative tool to supplement other lessons on phylogenetics and allow students to build their tree-thinking skills.

Correspondence to the Next Generation Science Standards is indicated in parentheses after each relevant concept. See our conceptual framework for details.

  • Present-day species evolved from earlier species; the relatedness of organisms is the result of common ancestry.

  • Evolutionary trees (i.e., phylogenies or cladograms) portray hypotheses about evolutionary relationships.

Teacher background:

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