Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this activity students will model ‘natural selection’ by using different utensils to pick up food. Students participate in trials using different utensils, recording the results of their trials and reflecting on these results. Finally, students will be asked to create an cartoon, podcast or video to describe a real-life example of natural selection.

Learning goals:

  • Students will begin to understand the process of natural selection.
  • Students will recognise the role of ‘selective agents’ in natural selection.

21st century skills:

evolution simulation skills

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content description:

Year 10 Science

  • The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the diversity of living things and is supported by a range of scientific evidence (ACSSU185)
  • Plan, select and use appropriate investigation methods, including field work and laboratory experimentation, to collect reliable data; assess risk and address ethical issues associated with these methods (ACSIS199)
  • Evaluate conclusions, including identifying sources of uncertainty and possible alternative explanations, and describe specific ways to improve the quality of the data (ACSIS205)

Syllabus OutcomesSC5-14LW.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.2.

Relevant parts of Year 10 Science achievement standards: Students explain the processes that underpin heredity and evolution. Students independently design and improve appropriate methods of investigation, including field work and laboratory experimentation. When analysing data, selecting evidence and developing and justifying conclusions, they identify alternative explanations for findings and explain any sources of uncertainty.

Topic: Evolution.

Time required: 60 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: High – oversee activity, assist with trials, facilitate discussion.

Resources required: Natural selection factsheet, stopwatch, dried beans, 10 clothes pegs, 10 tweezers, 10 forks, 10 needles, 5 spoons, internet access, Student Worksheet – one copy per student OR computers/tablets to access the online worksheet.

Digital technology opportunities: Digital sharing capabilities.

Homework and extension opportunities: Includes opportunities for extension.

Keywords: Natural selection, selective agent, evolution, beans, species.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Overarching learning goal: By participating in this activity students will begin to understand the process of natural selection and will recognise the role of 'selective agents' in natural selection.

Teacher content information: Natural selection is the process where an environmental factor acts on a population and results in some organisms having more offspring than others. Darwin concluded that natural selection will only occur where there is variation (natural differences) in a population. These natural differences can now be explained through genetics - however at the time when Darwin reached his conclusions about natural selection genetics was unknown.

Biologists call the environmental factor that acts on the population the 'selective agent' and the effect of natural selection on the population is known as 'selective pressure'. The selective agent may be a natural occurring factor such as predation, bacterial infection, competition, temperature, fire, wate

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: If evolution is survival of the fittest, who's ahead - cockroaches or humans?

Mossmouse trial results

Record the results of your trial below:

Trial number

Time set

Number of species survived and type of species

Number and type of species died

e.g. 1

60 seconds

2 x fork, 1 x tweezer, 1 x needle, 1 x spoon

2 x fork, 2 x tweezer, 1 x needle


After completing the Mossmouse trial, work in pairs to answer the following questions:

How does this activity describe the process of natural selection?

What is the selective agent in this activity?

What happens to animals that cannot compete as well with other animals in the wild?

Sometimes animals that are introduced into an area they have never occupied before will endanger endemic species. Why do you think this happens?

If ‘survival of the fittest’ means that the fi

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