Teacher Guide (With Standards) to Biology Simulations

Updated: Feb 21

First, for general descriptions and sample videos for most of the simulations, check out this post. Since that was published, three additional simulations have been added, and the site has been getting some more traffic from a wider range of instructors. This update will describe the primary target audiences for each simulation, discuss possible uses, and link the simulations to standards (NGSS Discipline Area Core Ideas, AP Bio and Environmental Science Units, and Ohio, since that is where I teach). Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions or feedback.

EVOLUTION SIMULATIONS


Arms Race: The arms race simulation is an opportunity for students to study an"arms race" involving prey toxicity and predator resistance and an evolutionary trade-off in the predator. The arms race blog post describes the scenario that the simulation is based on and provides some additional resources. Before attempting to work with this, students should already have a good understanding of natural selection. I use it with 9th grade Honors, but it would also be appropriate for AP Bio/College Intro.

NGSS HS-LS4-4

Ohio B.E.1

AP Biology 7.1 and 7.2


Bottleneck Event and Founder Effect: These two simulations are probably the simplest on the site. They are intended introduce examples of genetic drift. Both are intended for introductory high school biology. They can also serve as a review for AP Biology students.

NGSS does not require non-selective forces, including genetic drift. The data analysis practiced in these simulations can still fit into Science Practices and Crosscutting Concepts

Ohio B.E.1

AP Biology 7.4


Evolution: 10,000: This simulation tracks a population through 10,000 years. Students can select the phenotypes for the starting population and the starting environment. The simulation progresses in 1,000 year chunks, providing data at each stop point. Designed for middle school or high school as an introduction or review of natural selection and variation.

NGSS MS-LS4-4, HS-LS4-3

Ohio 8.LS.1, B.E.1

AP Biology 7.1

AP ES 2.6


Mutation: This activity simulates a bacterial mutagenesis lab. The lab can be used to focus on mutation rates or it the simulation can be an opportunity to introduce some details of molecular genetics, including base structure, DNA repair functions, and the molecular specifics of UV induced mutation. Depending on the level of detail discussed, this activity could be appropriate for a wide range of students.

NGSS HS-LS1-1, HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-2

Ohio B.H.4, B.E.1

AP Biology 6.7, 7.4

APES 9.1


Natural Selection: This is an introduction to natural selection. It can work as a formal lab or an informal introduction to the concept of natural selection based on environment. I use it with 9th grade student for introductory high school biology, but it could be applied to middle school students or as a quick review for AP students.

NGSS MS-LS4-4, HS-LS4-3

Ohio 8.LS.1, B.E.1

AP Biology 7.1

AP ES 2.6

Natural Selection

Population Genetics: This simulation was created with AP Biology in mind. It is intended to be an introduction/follow up to the Hardy-Weinberg spreadsheet modeling lab. Students can use the data collected for null hypothesis testing (here is a blog post explaining an example). It can be used to test natural selection, genetic drift, and mutation rates. The simulation could be used for introductory biology, but may require additional teacher direction, particularly if students don't already have a strong background in heredity.

NGSS HS-LS4-4

Ohio B.E.1

AP Biology 7.2, 7.4, and 7.5


Sexual Selection: This simulation is intended to help students understand not only the concept of sexual selection, but how natural selection is at play in sexual selection examples as well. Traits that are sexually selected for often have trade-offs in terms of survival. I use this simulation with introductory biology, but it can be paired with the population genetics simulation (which does not address sexual selection) for AP biology as well.

NGSS HS-LS4-2

Ohio B.E.1

AP Biology 7.2, 7.5

Sexual Selection

ECOLOGY SIMULATIONS


Biodiversity: The biodiversity simulation produces data that can be used for quantifying biodiversity. This can be used on a very basic level with middle school, or even elementary students, or more complex calculations can be practiced with high school students. It was initially designed for teaching Simpson's Diversity Index for honors 9th grade. A worksheet option is available that specifically uses the version of Simpson that appears on the AP Biology formula sheet.

NGSS HS-LS2-2

Ohio 7.LS.2, B.DI.1

AP Biology 8.5

AP ES 2.1

Biodiversity simulation

Competition: Like many of the simulations, it is designed with introductory high school biology in mind, but works as a review for AP classes. Ecology is a big focus for my 9th grade classes, particularly honors, and I subsequently spend less time on that with AP Biology. However, the ecology simulations work at an AP level for teachers that have extensive AP ecology units or for students who need quick refreshers.

NGSS HS-LS2-1

Ohio B.DI.2

AP Biology 8.7, 8.5

AP ES 1.1


Macroinvertebrates: The macroinvertebrates simulation can be used in the same way as the biodiversity simulation. It can also be used as an introduction to water quality assessments using bioindicators. The associated standards for a biodiversity option are listed above (with the biodiversity simulation), so I won't repeat them here, instead focusing on the water quality analysis function. This was designed to be an introduction to water quality analysis before doing an actual field analysis, although for schools without easy river access this could be a stand-alone activity.

NGSS HS-LS2-2

Ohio 3.ESS.3, 4.LS.1, B.DI.3

AP ES 8.2


Population Dynamics: I use this simulation as an inquiry opportunity for 9th grade honors bio, but like many of the other simulations it can easily be an AP level activity. There is probably too much going on here for it to be easily converted to a middle school option.

NGSS HS-LS2-1

Ohio B.DI.2

AP Biology 8.4, 8.5

AP ES 3.5

Population Dynamics

CELL ENERGY


Cell Energy: There is only one simulation under the cell energy heading, but it can do a lot. Students can use it to study photosynthesis, cellular respiration, or ecosystem primary productivity based on dissolved oxygen levels. It also has enough variables to be a good inquiry option. I primarily use it for 9th grade Biology but it is a good reintroduction to photosynthesis and respiration for AP or a good AP introduction to primary productivity calculations.

NGSS HS-LS1-5, HS-LS1-7, HSLS2-5

Ohio B.C.2

AP Biology 3.5, 3.6, 8.2

AP ES 1.8


HEREDITY


Each of the heredity simulations can be used for casual comparisons or for statistical analysis. Here is a blog post with a chi-squared example.


Heredity I: Two autosomal, unlinked traits, each with one dominant allele and one recessive allele. The two traits can be tested independently (probably appropriate for a middle school audience), or studied in a dihybrid cross (bumping it to a high school rigor level).

NGSS MS-LS3-2, HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-2

Ohio 8.LS.3, B.H.3

AP Biology 5.3


Heredity II: Tests one X-linked trait. For most schools, this will be an introductory high school biology topic that is reviewed in AP Bio.

NGSS HS-LS3-1

Ohio B.H.3

AP Biology 5.4


Heredity III: Tests epistasis and incomplete dominance. Incomplete dominance can be tested without including epistasis. Incomplete dominance is often an introductory topic, while data analysis on gene interactions is typically more advanced.

Ohio B.H.3

AP Biology 5.4

Heredity III

Heredity IV: Involves two linked traits. Each trait can also be tested independently. A chi-squared analysis can be used to demonstrate that the genes do not assort independently. In addition, a back cross can be done to estimate the map unit distance between the genes. There is a blog post to help explain linkage and recombination.

NGSS HS-LS3-2

Ohio B.H.3

AP Biology 5.4


GAMES

No standards here, just some fun.


Mission: Taxonomy

This game gives students a chance to practice identifying which animals belong to which groups (poriferia, arthropoda, etc.). Taxonomic groups are a good tie-in to evolutionary concepts.

Mission: Taxonomy

AP Bio

No curricular value here. Could potentially be used as a discussion starter about how stress and online distractions impact performance? It's really just a little bit of fun for my students...


AP Bio