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Identify your learning goals

At the end of the school year, there are certain conceptual understandings that we want our students to have. Achieving these learning goals lays the groundwork for more sophisticated understandings as students proceed through their learning experiences. The Understanding Evolution Conceptual Framework is an effective tool for identifying a sequence of age-appropriate conceptual understandings (K-16) to guide your teaching.

The conceptual framework is aligned with the 2012 Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). In the concepts below, conceptual alignment is indicated by a code that follows each aligned concept. For example, LS4.A indicates correspondence to the Life Sciences core idea "Evidence of common ancestry and diversity" from both the NGSS and the Framework for grades 3-5, P3 indicates correspondence to "Planning and carrying out investigations," the third of eight Science and Engineering Practices listed in those documents, and NOS2 indicates correspondence to the second concept outlined in NGSS's appendix on the nature of science, "Scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence." Read more about Understanding Evolution and the NGSS/Framework alignment.

The Understanding Evolution Framework is divided into five strands, and a selection of teaching resources (i.e., lessons, activities, readers, and interactive online modules) targeting most concepts has been identified.

Jump to: History of Life | Evidence of Evolution | Mechanisms of Evolution | Nature of Science | Studying Evolution


Click here for a printable version.

History of Life concepts for K-2
  1. Life has been on Earth a long time. (See Lessons)
    1. Life forms have changed over time.

  2. Many life forms have gone extinct. (See Lessons)
    To help you teach these concepts, you may want to explore Patterns.

    Evidence of Evolution concepts for K-2
    1. Today there are many diverse forms of life. LS4.D (See Lessons)
      1. Plants and animals have features that allow them to live in various environments. LS4.C (See Lessons)
        1. Form is linked to function. (See Lessons)

      2. Fossils provide evidence of past life. (See Lessons)
        1. Living things are alike in some ways and different in other ways. (See Lessons)
          To help you teach these concepts, you may want to explore Lines of Evidence.

          Mechanisms of Evolution concepts for K-2
          1. There is variation within a population. LS3.A, LS3.B (See Lessons)
            1. Living things have offspring. LS3.A
              1. Offspring inherit many traits from their parents, but are not exactly the same as their parents. LS3.A
              2. Siblings are similar to, but not identical to, one another.

            To help you teach these concepts, you may want to explore Descent with Modification or Natural Selection.

            Nature of Science concepts for K-2
            1. Scientific ideas may change based on what we observe and experience. NOS3
              1. We learn about the natural world using our senses and extensions of our senses. P3, P4, P6 (See Lessons)
                1. Science is a human endeavor. NOS7 (See Lessons)
                  To help you teach these concepts, you may want to explore Nature of Science.

                  Studying Evolution concepts for K-2
                  1. Scientists study living things. (See Lessons)
                    1. Scientists study fossils. (See Lessons)
                    2. Scientists study rocks.

                  To help you teach these concepts, you may want to explore Lines of Evidence.

                  Focus on the fundamentals

                  Avoid common teaching pitfalls


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                  All-level resources
                  Guide to Evo 101

                  Conceptual framework

                  Teaching resource database

                  Image library

                  Dealing with objections to evolution

                  Correcting misconceptions

                  Alignment with science standards

                  Suggest a lesson or resource for Understanding Evolution