The Case of Darwin's Finches Lesson Plan
In The Case of Darwin’s Finches, students will engage in the scientific process to answer the research question, “Are Darwin’s finches really finches?” The project is designed for students to act as investigators trying to solve a case within collaborative groups, using learning stations and large and/or small group discussions. Students will draw conclusions about the relatedness of birds based on physical appearance, structural morphology, feeding behavior, and DNA sequences. After rotating through the stations, students will develop a conclusion as to if Darwin’s finches are actually finches.
Students will also draw conclusions about the validity of using observation and DNA evidence as a basis for such scientific conclusions. Students will make the connection between this project and systems biology: looking at the molecular level (DNA) in order to understand the whole organism.
The N. W. Harris Learning Collection at The Field Museum offers over 1,500 treasures—real specimens and artifacts—for educators and parents to borrow. Use the materials from our Learning Collection to engage learners in scientific practices, develop critical thinking skills, and pique curiosity about Earth’s natural and cultural diversity.
The Case of Darwin’s Finches lesson: Bird Tree of Life Experience Box – This box includes ten bird skulls from the Bronze-Winged Mannikin, Zebra Finch, Caribbean Flamingo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Burrowing Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Cardinal, Duck, and Pileated Woodpecker. The variation in their skull sizes and beaks reminds us that they are highly adapted to different food sources and environments. Learn about the process of natural selection and create an evolutionary bird tree of life to show how the specimens in the box are related.
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