Highschool Biology course

Hello all,

I don’t want to be repetitive but I am approaching teaching my evolution unit in IB biology in a evolution-hesitant community and I am struggling with selecting good informative examples that my students can engage with.

I did a pre-unit discussion and reflection piece and every student regardless of position/beliefs wanted to learn more about evolution, how it works, and technical details.

What would you recommend in terms of examples and sources that would fit a high school audience (this would be for enrichment as the evidence portion of my course is fairly short)?

Thanks so much for your assistance!


This online tutorial by the U. California Berkeley is still one of the best I’ve seen. It’s written for high school / layman level.

Evolution 101

You should be able to find lots of good material there. Notice they also have a section with teaching materials and resources.



I would suggest that you look into the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach, which has a wealth of material on just that subject, some of which is open access. Mammal evolution is a subject you might find particularly useful. There are articles on whales, “mammal-like reptiles”, and all manner of other stuff.

Or you could try American Biology Teacher. This is old, but still good: Hopson J.A. The mammal-like reptiles: A study of transitional fossils. Am. Biol. Teacher 1987; 49:16-26.


Here’s Jim Hopson’s article on the web.

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If I were teaching evolution in a high school biology class I would think about using this lesson plan:

The article describes an airplane design that has distinct parts that can be mutated and moved around which makes it ideal for this type of experiment. The design group can make any changes they want to make the best airplane they can. The evolution group would randomly pick a part of the plane to change, roll a die or flip a coin to determine how to change it, and then pass on the trait if the airplane’s flight improves. At the end, the two groups can compare their results. If you have multiple classes, you can compare the evolved planes between different groups to show how contingency and fitness landscapes can influence evolution.


Biologos has a some type of course called evolutionary creation that might be helpful to you. It is just like secular biology (which is neither theistic nor atheistic) but they make it more comfortable for kids who have been indoctrinated in creationism at a young age and now need to be educated with real science.

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@djkriese, I’m part of a team developing BioLogos INTEGRATE, a resource for high school biology teachers who are teaching Christian students. One of our units is called Evolutionary Creation. It does contain science activities aimed at helping students understand how natural selection works, but also LOTS of other activity ideas for working through common misconceptions. We do aim to be respectful for Christians with other view points. We are piloting all our units this semester so if you are interested in trying it out, please email me at integrate@biologos.org and I can send you more info.


Wouldn’t all high school biology teachers be teaching at least some Christian students, given the prevalence of Christianity in the U.S.? Or perhaps “Christian” means something else here.


@Kathryn_Applegate what is Biologos doing to teach Biology to the majority of Millennials who are not Christian and those that identify as Nothing-in-Particular? Today’s high school students identifying as Nothing in Particular is 49% whereas those identifying as Christians is 46%. High School Biology shouldn’t have anything to do with religious beliefs as Biological science is neither theist nor atheistic. Creationism, on the other hand, including Biologos’ Evolutionary Creationism, has been deemed by Federal Courts to be religion and not allowed to be taught in public schools as science.

Yes, great point. But because most of the INTEGRATE material is coming from an explicitly Christian perspective, much of it couldn’t be directly taught in public school classrooms. That’s why it’s primarily intended for private Christian school teachers and homeschool parents. That said, we do think public school teachers would benefit from understanding the mindset of their students of faith, so they could improve their teaching, and also consider recommending resources like INTEGRATE to their students’ families. Science education is becoming much more friendly to discussions about faith which is encouraging. Educators are realizing it is ineffective to talk about scientific evidence only and ignore a student’s conceptual ecology.


And what about the students with no faith? Shouldn’t they be entitled to a science education without creationism injected into it? Do you think that Biologos’ Evolutionary Creationism is somehow less harmful to high school biology science education than AiG’s pseudoscience and DI’s ID non-science?

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Are you asking public school teachers to teach high school biology differently to Christian students compared to non-Christian students? How would Biologos improve their teaching?

Here is Miller’s Biology Textbook that is used across the United States:


What’s wrong with this?

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If you could approach the subject of evolution in a way that doesn’t immediately alienate Christian students who have a creationist bent then that would be a big benefit, wouldn’t you agree? You don’t have to insert theology or creationism into the classroom to achieve this goal. Perhaps, just maybe, if those students actually start looking into the theory with a more open mind they may change their outlook.


Perhaps a better way would be for parents to stop indoctrinating their children with anti-evolution nonsense. Then student can learn real biology unencumbered by the religious dogma and doctrine of their parents.

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A high school biology teacher has no control over that.


Great to see you here @Kathryn_Applegate; it has been a while. Don’t mind @Patrick. Your work is important.

And so is my work keeping science education free from religious dogma.


Let me suggest that you are still using “students of faith” as a proxy for “students who have some problem with evolution because of their faith”, which is probably not at all the case for a large number of these students, incuding a majority of them in some areas. When you say “Christians” I think you’re confusing that with conservative Christians, fundamentalists, evangelicals, and such. Those are the ones who might need some kind of discussion about faith. But others would not. Let’s not tacitly assume that all Christians of of that sort.


I’m teaching creationists about evolutionary theory. The strongest evidence for evolution is the progression of forms and the nested-hierarchy.

One can see the progression of creatures that are very dis-similar from humans to those that are highly similar. Same for other creatures.

At the DNA and protein level, one can see this very plainly just by showing alignments of the spelling of proteins.

It’s much like a family tree and how we establish how closely one pair of humans are related to each other. For example we can guess if two individuals are likely siblings, cousins, or even farther relations.

That said, it once seemed reasonable to rational scientists and mathematicians that the sun and stars orbited the Earth. Evolutionary theory suffers from the same defects of superficial appearances. That’s how to teach it to a faith community. I’m doing exactly that when I teach evolutionary theory.

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