Unity and Diversity in Evolution

This page includes resources for teaching evolution. It was started during the NYSED Teacher Leader Science Institute in December, 2015 and is being updated to correspond to evolution lessons currently taught by adult education teachers in New York State.

Young Adult Books

Middle School Textbooks

Science Concepts: Adaptation, by Alvin Silverstein, Virginia Silverstein and Laura Silverstein Nunn (Twenty-First Century Books)

Background Reading for Teachers

Classroom Resources

A catalogue of multimedia resources from the PBS series, including the influential voices of Darwin, Cuvier, Lyell, Lamarck, Malthus, and Wallace. Includes videos for students and a series of seven lesson plans for teachers.

Great introductory web site for all basic topics in traits and inheritance, genetic variation, chromosomes and inheritance, etc. Slide shows and videos, with text. Great for students and teacher background knowledge. You might start with the Tour of the Basics. Then take a look at their lesson plans and curricula. Sample Lesson: Evolution – Variation + Selection & Time

Not a very catchy name, but a fantastic web site. Videos, film guides, multimedia resources, interactives, classroom activities. Highly recommended. You might start with Using BioInteractive.org Resources to Teach Evolution. It includes a full progression you could use to teach evolution. Also highly recommended is are the lectures on evolution by Sean B. Carroll. He tells the story of Darwin’s development of the theory of evolution through natural selection.

An online classroom activity about animals and adaptation, including an extensive “Darwin Library” of articles and video.

Topics in Evolution (resources for lesson planning)

Timeline of Earth’s History

The 25 Biggest Turning Points in the Earth’s History


Artificial Selection

Artificially Selecting Dogs (students breed dogs for certain desired traits)

Darwin and the Journey of the H.M.S. Beagle

The complete Beagle journal

Detailed narrative of the voyage – with discussion questions

Darwin’s Beagle Diary read aloud on BBC

Capturing Darwin’s voice in correspondence – audio recordings of his letters

For Teachers

Evolution 101 explains the the basic definitions and details of evolution. This is great for teachers’ background knowledge.

Introduction to Evolution through the Essential Science for Teachers video series. This is a good place to start if you’re starting to think about teaching evolution.

Statements from religious organizations supporting teaching of evolution, Scopes-Monkey trial, the law and teaching of evolution, creationism, etc.

A peer-reviewed, open access academic journal on the teaching of evolution. Articles from all issues are downloadable.


This documentary series examines evolutionary science and the effect it has had on society and culture. You can also find teaching evolution case studies here. Key shows include: Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Great Transformations, Why Sex? and What about God?

These full-length documentaries from PBS explore different topics in evolution, including: What Darwin Didn’t Know (how recent advances in genetics strengthen and extend Darwin’s theories), Where We Come From (the birth of our solar system and life on Earth) and multiple videos on the evolution of humanity.

A 10 min. film about the rock pocket mouse and its adaptation to black lava rocks in the Arizona desert. Clear example of natural selection.


Engaging, accessible short episodes on a range of topics in Evolution, from a biography of Darwin and the history of the idea, to explanations of specific concepts such as natural selection, sexual selection, and dating fossils, and including episodes on common misconceptions related to evolution and natural selection.

Key episodes: Why Darwin Matters (includes straight-forward, succinct explanation of Darwin’s chain of logic), Only A Theory (scientific vs. common understanding of the term)

An entertaining, thought-provoking podcast on all kinds of science and human interest stories. If you’ve never listened, treat yourself.

Key episodes: Galapagos (revisiting Darwin’s favorite place), Darwinvaganza (celebrating Darwin’s birthday), The Good Show (how evolution explains altruism), Inheritance (exploring nature and nurture), New Nice (domestication and evolution), In Defense of Darwin? (Robert Krulwich interviews Richard Dawkins), Tell Me a Story (Krulwich commencement speech on the stories of evolution)

A weekly discussion of science topics on NPR, hosted by Ira Flatow.

Key episodes: Explaining Science through Improv (helping scientists explain science through listening carefully to their audiences), Negotiating the Challenges of Teaching Evolution (science educators share approach to introducing evolution concepts and dealing with resistance)

Visual Representations

Evolution: A Progression of Scientific Thought – This incredible flowchart showing how the idea of evolution has developed over more than 2,000 years. (from University of California Museum of Paleontology’s Understanding Evolution, http://evolution.berkeley.edu)


A Framework for K-12 Science Education

This framework provides a readable explanation of the Next Generation Science Standards. For example, here is a piece of the NGSS on Natural Selection and Evolution:

NGSS screen shot

And here are the first few paragraphs of an explanation in the framework:


What evidence shows that different species are related?

Biological evolution, the process by which all living things have evolved over many generations from shared ancestors, explains both the unity and the diversity of species. The unity is illustrated by the similarities found betwen species; which can be explained by the inheritance of similar characteristics from related ancestors. The diversity of species is also consistent with common ancestry; it is explained by the branching and diversification of lineages as populations adapted, primarily through natural selection, to local circumstances.

Evidence for common ancestry can be found in the fossil record, from comparative anatomy and embryology, from the similarities of cellular processes and structures, and from comparisons of DNA sequences between species. The understanding of evolutionary relationships has recently been greatly accelerated by using new molecular tools to study developmental biology, with researchers dissecting the genetic basis for some of the changes seen in the fossil record, as well as those that can be inferred to link living species (e.g., the armadillo) to their ancestors (e.g., glyptodonts, a kind of extinct gigantic armadillo). (Read more)

Science Literacy Maps

Shows the concepts students should have at different grade levels. Ideas are connected to the Next Generation Science Standards, as well as related common misconceptions.

Key topics: Variation in Inherited Characteristics, Biological Evolution, Natural Selection

Connections between the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core Math Standards (CCSSM)

In studying math, students develop a number of powerful quantitative tools. Those tools are applicable beyond the math classroom, and are better understood and more securely mastered when applied in a variety of contexts. This document makes connections between the science and math content standards for each grade level. Adult education teachers might use this document to look for opportunities to integrate math and science instruction. To give you a sense of the document, here’s the section for the middle school standards connected to biological evolution:

Biological Evolution Unity and Diversity

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