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Links to Avida-ED spreadsheets for Active LENS and BioQUEST 2018

Author(s): Jim Smith

Michigan State University

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Would you like your students to engage with evolutionary mechanisms using a digital model that is not just a simulation of the effects of evolution? Are you interested in implementing an active learning and inquiry-based scientific experience in your course?

Using the free browser-based digital evolution platform Avida-ED your students can design experiments and collect data to observe how random mutations and evolution in action can produce complexity. This authentic research experience addresses common misconceptions in an engaging and exploratory manner that many of our students find to be “really cool and helpful,” and “a vivid way to learn” about evolution. For many of our students this experience was the first time they identified with the scientific community: “[With] the Avida-ED project, [it] felt like I was a researcher.”

In our session participants will perform a set of exercises designed to address common misconceptions regarding the process of evolution. We’ll then describe the independent research projects carried out by groups of students using Avida-ED. Our session’s initial exploration of this curriculum will provide the basis for a discussion about how workshop participants might implement Avida-ED lessons and/or research projects in their own courses.

This Avida-ED curriculum has been implemented in biology courses at Michigan State University and around the US, ranging from high school through advanced undergraduate. We will also present data on work we have done to assess the effectiveness of Avida-ED implementations on student learning of evolutionary concepts and science process skills

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