Biology teachers inevitably struggle with how best to teach evolution. Students arrive in their classrooms with preconceptions, many of which are overwhelmingly skeptical, and science teachers are increasingly being pressured to adhere to an arbitrary degree of objectivity that makes discussing scientific worldviews challenging. These challenges have resulted in evolution being taught largely as a series of explanations for questions arising from observations of the living world. In so doing, students may not have a chance to grapple with the worldview that produced those explanations, or develop a more mechanistic intuition for inheritance and change in the world they see around themselves. Here we put forth all the tools necessary for a class to build a simulation of an evolving population experiencing natural selection from scratch in a Google Docs spreadsheet. Not only will this activity help students experiment with the natural world more mechanistically, but it will also allow them to learn as actual evolutionary biologists do.
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Vol. 79 • No. 8