During my unit on Evolution, I strive to keep my students engaged with real-life examples. One of my favorites is the evolutionary correlation between Sickle Cell Anemia and Malaria. This example not only ties in the process of Natural Selection, but it also provides students with a real world example of Natural Selection in humans.
I start my lesson with an inquiry activity, A Case For Natural Selection: Sickle Cell Anemia and Malaria. If necessary, I have students do a quick 5 minute research on Sickle Cell Anemia and Malaria to get background information on both diseases. Then, students are partnered up to compare and contrast a map of Sickle Cell Anemia distribution to a map of Malaria distribution. Upon examining the two maps, students are asked a series of probing questions which guide their thinking towards the evolutionary connection between the two diseases. One an inherited disease and one an infectious disease. How can they be linked?
After allowing students time to collaborate with their partner, I lead a whole class discussion in which we debrief their partner conversations. At this time, I do not tell them whether or not they are on the right track but just want to hear their thought process.
Lastly, I show them the HHMI Biointeractive video clip that discuss the correlation between Sickle Cell Anemia and Malaria. This leads to more class discussion. We end class with an individual reflection on the activity in which students explain how Sickle Cell Anemia and Malaria provide a real-life example of Natural Selection in humans.
Interested in this activity? Click here to get it to try in your classroom for FREE!