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Anolis Lizards


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Students "travel" to the Greater Antilles to figure out how the Anolis lizards might have evolved there. Students make observations, ask questions, share data, form hypotheses, generate expectations, get more data, interpret them, and test their ideas.

Collins, Jennifer


Life Science, Nature and Process of Science

Two class periods

Teaching tips:
It is easy to modify this lesson to emphasize the process of science. The lesson involves real data from field research. You can: • Emphasize that science is done by people – in this case people in the filed making lots and lots of observations. • Be explicit about data representation. Here students chart the lizard data on phylogenetic trees to make it easier to see the patterns. There is no one correct way to represent data. • Be explicit about hypotheses generating multiple expectations. You can emphasize the core logic of scientific testing: "If this idea is right, what would I expect to observe?" Encourage students to be specific about these expectations and to generate multiple expectations for each hypothesis. • Be explicit about data interpretation and ambiguity in science. In this lesson, though the lizard data generally support one hypothesis over the other, one group of closely related lizards is an imperfect match. • This lesson demonstrates that doing “experiments’ is not the only way to test ideas! You can also apply the Science Flowchart. In the lesson, students made initial observations, asked questions, shared data, communicated with others, formed hypotheses, generated expectations, got more data, interpreted them, and concluded that they supported one hypothesis and opposed a different one. Have students trace their pathway through the flowchart to emphasize the nonlinearity of their activities.

Correspondence to the Next Generation Science Standards is indicated in parentheses after each relevant concept. See our conceptual framework for details.

  • Science is both a body of knowledge and the process for building that knowledge. (NOS5)

  • Science aims to build explanations of the natural world. (P3, P6)

  • Science works only with testable ideas. (P2, P3, NOS2)

  • Scientists strive to test their ideas with evidence from the natural world; a hallmark of science is exposing ideas to testing. (P3, P4, P6, P7, NOS2)

  • The process of science involves observation, exploration, testing, communication, and application.

  • Scientists test their ideas (hypotheses and theories) by figuring out what expectations are generated by an idea and making observations to find out whether those expectations are borne out. (P4, P6)

  • Scientists can test ideas about events and processes long past, very distant, and not directly observable.

  • Scientists test their ideas using multiple lines of evidence. (P6, NOS2)

  • Scientists often try to generate multiple explanations for what they observe. (P7)

  • Scientists use multiple research methods (experiments, observational research, comparative research, and modeling) to collect data. (P2, P3, P4, NOS1)

  • Scientists look for patterns in their observations and data. (P4, P5, NOS2)

  • Analysis of data usually involves putting data into a more easily accessible format (visualization, tabulation, or quantification of qualitative data). (P4, P5)

  • Hypotheses are proposed explanations for a narrow set of phenomena. (P6)

  • Hypotheses are usually inspired and informed by previous research and/or observations. They are not guesses. (P6)

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