MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology

You Can’t Always Get What You Want: A Lesson in Human Evolution

Julie Boehm
Biology Department
Wellesley High School
Wellesley, Massachusetts

This lesson introduces students to the concepts of evolution, specifically the evolution of humans. So often our students assume that humans are well adapted to our environments because we are in control of our evolutionary destiny. The goal is to change these types of misconceptions and get our students to link the concepts learned in their DNA, protein synthesis, and genetics units to their understanding of evolution. Students will also discover that humans are still evolving and learn about the traits that are more recent adaptations to our environment. The lesson is designed to take two one-hour class periods to complete. The activities will allow students to draw connections between environmental pressures and selected traits, both through data analysis and modeling. Most activities can be done without any special materials, although the Modeling Natural Selection activity needs either a tri-colored pasta, or tricolored beans, to be completed effectively.




这节课给学生介绍了进化的概念,尤其是人类的进化。我们的学生常常认为人类很好地适应了我们周围的环境因为我们能够掌握我们的进化命运。这节课的目的就是为了改变这些误解,并且使我们的学生将这些在DNA, 蛋白质合成,和遗传学单元里学到的概念和他们对进化的理解联系起来。学生们将会发现人类还处在进化中,他们还会了解到人类为了适应我们的环境直到最近才进化产生的一些特性。这节课设计为两节时长一小时的课。课堂活动将通过数据分析和建模来让学生得出环境压力和选择特性之间的联系。大多数的活动不需要什么特殊的材料,但是,模拟自然选择过程的活动需要用到三种颜色的意面,或是三种颜色的豆子。

Julie Boehm is a biology teacher at Wellesley High School in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She is especially passionate about relating all topics of biology to humans and the human body. Her website can be found at:

This site, Understanding Evolution from the University of California at Berkeley, describes itself as “your one-stop source for information on evolution”.

This site, sponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, presents a comprehensive “Introduction to Human Evolution,” with resources for teachers and students.

This page, The Human Journey: Migration Routes, is presented by the Genographic Project of National Geographic and creates a picture of when and where ancient humans moved around the world

The site, sponsored by Public Broadcasting Stations (PBS), presents a human Evolution activity that shows the major hominid (human or human-like) species discovered to date, when they lived, and how they might be related to each other.

This October, 2014 article brings breaking news about the development of lactose tolerance in the Ancient European population.


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This Lesson is in the following clusters: DNA, Evolution