Exploring change in populations!

Today students learned about biodiversity – genetic variation among and within species – and about how biodiversity in a population can change over time. We talked about the four main mechanisms of population change: mutation (creates variation), gene flow (migration moves variation between populations), genetic drift (random events like natural disasters), and natural selection (when more successful gene variations become more frequent in the population). We also explored some real world examples of changing populations such as antibiotic resistance, Darwin’s finches, and/or lactose tolerance. In our activity, students got a chance to run a simulation of a population and see how different scenarios (representing different mechanisms) affected the population as a whole. Some classes also discussed artificial selection – the process by which humans have bred animals to emphasize certain features. Our main example were dogs – just think of all the different dog breeds! Today, we not only have dogs as different as Labradors and Poodles, but also mixes of those breeds: “Ladradoodles”. For the follow up activity, students are encouraged to design their own dog breed, picking out features they would want in their ideal dog.

Investigando los cambios en la población

Hoy, los estudiantes aprendieron sobre la biodiversidad (variación genética entre especies y dentro de una especie) y sobre cómo puede cambiar con el tiempo. Discutimos sobre los cuatro mecanismos principales de cambios poblacionales: mutación (genera variación), flujo génico (la migración induce variación entre poblaciones), deriva génica (eventos aleatorios como desastres naturales) y selección natural (cuando las variaciones de genes más exitosos son más frecuentes dentro de la población). También hablamos sobre ejemplos reales de cambios poblacionales como la resistencia a antibióticos, los pinzones de Darwin y la tolerancia a la lactosa. Durante nuestra actividad, los estudiantes tuvieron la oportunidad de realizar una simulación computacional y ver cómo diferentes posibles escenarios (de los diferentes mecanismos) afectaron a la población en su totalidad. En algunos cursos, además conversamos sobre la selección artificial, proceso por el cual los humanos realizan cruzas entre animales para enfatizar ciertas características. Usamos como ejemplo principal, los perros, dado la gran cantidad de razas que existen. Hoy en día, no sólo tenemos Labradores y Poddles, sino que también mezclas de esas razas que se llaman “Labradoodles”. En la actividad de seguimiento, a los estudiantes se les incentiva a diseñar su propia raza de perros, con las características que les gustarían en sus perros.


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Lauren Koppel

Lauren earned a Bachelor’s degree with a double major of Biology and Psychology from Clark University, and a Master of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. During her undergraduate years, she worked in a evolutionary neurobiology lab that studied the neural development of annelids (marine worms), with a focus on the sox family of genes. Lauren loves learning about how the world works (including everything from biology to chemistry to engineering), and is passionate about sharing that knowledge and enthusiasm with others. In the past, she has interned at the Museum of Science, where she educated learners of all ages through hands-on activities, games, and experiments. Other science education organizations with which Lauren has worked include The People’s Science, EurekaFest, and Eureka! of Girls Inc. of Worcester. Currently she lives in Boston, where devotes her free time to playing Quidditch, reading sci-fi novels, playing her ukulele, and enjoying all the culinary delights the city has to offer.

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Our Young Pre classroom is for ages. This age group is working