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In this advanced 4-lesson curriculum unit, students examine evidence to compare four different explanations for why many malarial parasites are resistant to antimalarial drugs; investigate how scientific arguments using G6PD data show support for natural selection in humans; design an investigation using a simulation based on the Hardy-Weinberg principle to explore mechanisms of evolution; and apply their understanding to other alleles that have evolved in response to malaria.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Grade level:

7 50-minute class periods

Teaching tips:
These lessons were designed for AP biology, but would work for college students as well. A condensed lesson sequence is available.

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

  • Evolution is often defined as a change in allele frequencies within a population.

  • The Hardy-Weinberg equation describes expectations about the gene pool of a population that is not evolving—one that is very large, mates randomly, and does not experience mutation, natural selection, or gene flow.

  • Evolution occurs through multiple mechanisms.

  • Evolution results from natural selection acting upon genetic variation within a population.

  • Evolution results from genetic drift acting upon genetic variation within a population.

  • Natural selection and genetic drift act on the variation that exists in a population.

  • Natural selection acts on phenotype as an expression of genotype.

  • Inherited characteristics affect the likelihood of an organism's survival and reproduction.

  • Over time, the proportion of individuals with advantageous characteristics may increase (and the proportion with disadvantageous characteristics may decrease) due to their likelihood of surviving and reproducing.

  • Traits that confer an advantage may persist in the population and are called adaptations.

  • Depending on environmental conditions, inherited characteristics may be advantageous, neutral, or detrimental.

  • A hallmark of science is exposing ideas to testing.

  • Scientists test their ideas using multiple lines of evidence.

  • Scientists use multiple research methods (experiments, observational research, comparative research, and modeling) to collect data.

  • As with other scientific disciplines, evolutionary biology has applications that factor into everyday life, for example in agriculture, biodiversity and conservation biology, and medicine and health.

Teacher background:

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