In this assignment developed for beginning college level students by Lena Struwe at Rutgers University, the concepts of natural and artificial selection, as well as Lamarckian evolution, is demonstrated by the students by sorting jelly beans (real or virtual) and creating a model of evolutionary processes over three generations.

It is important for students to know the difference between these three types of evolutionary processes. This is especially true since Lamarckian selection is an often misinterpreted concept that doesn’t exist in nature, but is often used in society anyway in everyday communication (example: ‘the species has trait X because it needed it to survive’).

By making up three different scenarios and writing out the ‘evolutionary story’ for each process and the result in each generation, students show that they grasp the differences between the concepts and can also use their creativity.

The download file is a Powerpoint file with student instructions, worksheet, one example (natural selection), and a page with virtual jelly beans for online teaching (see images below).

When Lena Struwe let the students do this assignment in the classroom she provides jelly beans in paper cups, and the students may eat all their candy (at their own risk) when they are done with the assignment.  They are also allowed to trade beans with other students if they need beans they don’t have.

Modifications that are possible to this assignment includes bottleneck scenarios, random extinction events, directional evolution, and shifting population sizes.

Download the Powerpoint file here (screenshots below):

Jelly Bean Evolution Assignment by Lena Struwe (173 downloads)

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