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Posts Tagged ‘Evolution’

Axolotls have some wacky adaptations like feather-like gills on their head and the ability to regenerate limbs. They're endangered due to the non-native Carp and Tilapia that have been introduced into their native environment, gobbling up their primary food source. Come visit this interesting dude at The Brooklyn Children's Museum.

Activities on biomimicry can easily lead to questions about evolution. How did so many creatures evolve to have such wacky and perfectly suited adaptations? The Biomimicry Institute introduces students to the concept of natural selection through a simple hands-on game. Students begin in a circle surrounding a box of paper clips. Each student is handed a piece of paper. They may fold or bend their paper in any way that they think would make it the best “glider”. The object of the game is to get your paper to the box of paper clips in the least amount of throws. Each time a student’s “glider” touches the box the student may collect a paper clip. Read instructions for the full activity here.

The folds that the children make represent a natural mutation, with each round the student can adapt their glider to fly better.  The “gliders” equipped with mutations (folds and creases) most suited to their environment and best able to collect resources (the paper clips) stay in the game…they’ve adapted! Especially adapted gliders might even block other gliders ability to get near the box of paper clips. This helps show students what happens to organisms who share their environment with creatures extremely well adapted to obtaining their same food source. They can get crowded out!

One big piece of the evolution puzzle this game leaves out is “random variation”. Each “mutation” that that students add to their glider is formed with the goal of gliding in mind. Can you think of a way to alter this game that would show students that mutations are random rather than designed?

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