Speciation Activity: Students model Mutation, Natural Selection, and Evolution

Rated 4.92 out of 5, based on 25 reviews
25 Ratings
Science of Curiosity
Grade Levels
6th - 12th
Formats Included
  • PDF
26 pages
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Science of Curiosity


Students often have trouble with the concepts of Natural Selection and Evolution of a species. Where do new traits come from? Does the environment cause mutations to happen? Or does the mutation come first? How does geographic isolation lead to speciation? 

This is a fun, easy, low-prep activity that allows students to experience the process of evolution (speciation) due to random mutation and geographic isolation. Students get a solid understanding of where new traits come from and how changes in the environment can select for different traits. They also experience how evolution is limited to the traits in the population - if no individuals have a trait that aids in survival, extinction is a real possibility! 

This resource comes with...

  • a full video explanation of the activity
  • a Google Slideshow to use with your class - editable!
  • an activity sheet
  • a three page student sheet
  • a full answer key! 

Set up time - 10 minutes

Additional materials needed per group:

  • four small pieces of scrap (or copy) paper per student in the group
  • Tape
  • A baggie

Easy and fun!

Looking for other fun, interactive resources for teaching Biology? Here are a few other things from Science of Curiosity!

Some super fun, no tech, no prep review games

Total Pages
26 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
45 minutes
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution primarily results from four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the heritable genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for limited resources, and (4) the proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in the environment. Emphasis is on using evidence to explain the influence each of the four factors has on number of organisms, behaviors, morphology, or physiology in terms of ability to compete for limited resources and subsequent survival of individuals and adaptation of species. Examples of evidence could include mathematical models such as simple distribution graphs and proportional reasoning. Assessment does not include other mechanisms of evolution, such as genetic drift, gene flow through migration, and co-evolution.
Communicate scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence. Emphasis is on a conceptual understanding of the role each line of evidence has relating to common ancestry and biological evolution. Examples of evidence could include similarities in DNA sequences, anatomical structures, and order of appearance of structures in embryological development.
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations. Emphasis is on using data to provide evidence for how specific biotic and abiotic differences in ecosystems (such as ranges of seasonal temperature, long-term climate change, acidity, light, geographic barriers, or evolution of other organisms) contribute to a change in gene frequency over time, leading to adaptation of populations.
Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species. Emphasis is on determining cause and effect relationships for how changes to the environment such as deforestation, fishing, application of fertilizers, drought, flood, and the rate of change of the environment affect distribution or disappearance of traits in species.


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