I love dogs. I have three of them. It amazes me how these animals and humans can get along so well. They are truly our companions and some may even call them guardian angels. I have always been interested in why certain dog breeds look the way they do. Also, I like to try and understand the history of the artificial selection of certain traits that breeders have been focusing for 100's of years. I think that having an understanding of what a dog is bred for (and spaying and neutering) is truly the answer to preventing an increase of the number of dogs in shelters. So, of course, I want to use dogs as introduction to discussion evolution with high school students. Everyone knows what a dog is and is familar with the various breeds of dogs.
How do you get the discussion started?
Luckily, I am not the only person interested in how dogs and humans started hanging out together. It turns out that National Geographic Magazine has a great article on coevolution of dogs and humans. I used this article in my freshman biology class as a way to teach the scientific method and inquiry. Also, I incorporated analytical reading skills into the lesson.
Here's a link to the article:
Here's the questions/worksheet I gave with the article:
The Scientific Method
1. Ask a question
2. Form a hypothesis
3. Set up a controlled experiment or do further research
4. Record and analyze results
5. Draw a conclusion (Was your hypothesis supported by your data or by your research? Explain why.)
Directions: Today we are going to use the steps of the scientific to investigate how dogs and human have developed throughout history. Read the steps below and fill out the sheet based on your research.
1. Ask a Question:
The question we are investigating is:
Did humans and dogs evolve together?
2. Circle the hypothesis that you think the data will support:
a. Humans and dogs evolved together.
b. Humans and dogs did not evolve together.
3. Do further research. Read the article “Dog and Human Genomes Evolved Together.”
4. Record and analyze data. Record 4 pieces evidence from the article to support your hypothesis.
5. Draw a conclusion. Write one paragraph (a minimum of 5 sentences) answering the following questions. (So combine all the answers into one good paragraph)
a. Did your research support your hypothesis?
b. Explain how your research supported your hypothesis?
c. What could you do to further support your research?
d. How can you use this information for the good of all humans?
Write your paragraph here:_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Discuss the article in open, supportive, and kind environment
This lesson worked out really well. The students really liked the article because if you read it carefully there is evidence both for and against dogs' coevolution with humans. They also liked the fact that as long as you backed up your statements with evidence from the article or another reliable resource your answer was not wrong. After everyone had completed reading the article and answering the questions we discussed both sides openly. Then, this led to the students asking me my personal views on evolution and I shared them. It also gave me a chance to evaluate their conceptions on evolution. It's a great way to start the evolution discussion with something familar. Let me know if you try it!