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UPDATE: The Kane Lab has moved to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and is no longer supporting this program. Please see our publications linked at the bottom of the page for more information on replicating portions of the kit activities. Guppies are no longer available for use. However, we are interested in developing new activities utilizing native mosquitofish. Please contact us if you have ideas!

Along with a team from Colorado State University, Emily helped create self-guided guppy kits for supplementing evolution education in K-12 classrooms. Our team included researchers Dale BroderCameron GhalamborLisa Angeloni, and educators Andrew Warnock, Courtney Butler, and Lynne Judish from the CSU College of Natural Sciences Education and Outreach Center. This collaboration was funded by the National Science Foundation. Our lab is in the process of replicating these kits for use in South Georgia, in collaboration with Amanda Glaze in the Department of Teaching and Learning at GSU. 


The goal for these kits is three-fold: 1) to be able to expand our program beyond what we can reach ourselves (this is where the kit design comes in), 2) to increase classroom engagement by using live animals, and 3) to use an authentic science approach to help students realize they CAN actually do science, as well as learn about evolution the same way scientists have done. We are particularly interested in implementing this program in schools that serve low-income and underrepresented students who may not have access to other resources. These kits are currently directed toward middle school students, but could be adapted for other age or ability levels as needed.

The activities in the kit include: 


1. Students watch an introductory video that shows a diversity of scientists working in the field and lab. The video introduces students to the guppy system and provides an overview of the topics and measurements they will address in the activities below.

2. Students transfer guppies from a holding tank into individual observation tanks at their desks. They use these guppies to observe variation in color patterns between males from three populations of guppies (pet store, wild low predation, wild high predation). Students add their data to a graph on the board, and discuss variation within and between populations.

3. To begin to think about how traits are passed on from parents to offspring, as well as how female choice and sexual selection can influence the traits of male guppies, students learn how to complete Punnett squares to predict the outcomes of a cross. Students then roll a die to think about the difference between predicted and actual outcomes, and determine the trait values of potential offspring.

4. Students are then asked to use a predator silhouette to observe potential predator avoidance behaviors of each population of guppies. Using their observations, students make predictions about which guppies would be most likely to survive an encounter with a predator. Students then watch pre-recorded videos of a predator encounter with a group of guppies, 1 from each population, to test their hypothesis. Data are again recorded on the board and students asses whether their prediction was supported or not.

5. Students complete the activities by performing a thought exercise regarding the influence of time. They are provided with a starting population and asked how the traits would change given three scenarios of changing selection pressures. At the end of this exercise, they are told that these changes are what we call evolution.

A word cloud made from comments provided by teachers participating in the kits as part of a professional development workshop 

The kits were performed for the first time in March 2016, and since then, have been used with a range of student types, from middle school groups to community groups and even a professional development activity for elementary teachers! In all cases, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive!


The kits have been presented at multiple professional science conferences and have been published in a book chapter as well as the education journal The American Biology Teacher (see my blog post and a press release). 

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