Evolution education in the United States remains controversial and challenging. This is in part due to the difficulty educators face when trying to overcome students' preexisting beliefs about evolution, which can bias assimilation of information and inhibit learning. We propose that the most effective way to overcome such belief persistence is through an engaging, hands-on inquiry approach that mimics the scientific process used to study evolution. Although this teaching approach, known as authentic science, has gained recognition for its effectiveness in the classroom, it has not been widely applied to teach evolution. We describe how an authentic science approach can be used to teach evolution by natural selection, and provide a formula for the development of such programs. Following this blueprint, we developed a program using Trinidadian guppies and implemented it in 7th grade classrooms in Colorado. Pre- and post-program assessments revealed significant increases in both the understanding and acceptance of evolution among participants. Authentic science experiments using locally adapted populations of live organisms may be able to overcome belief persistence and improve student understanding of evolution.
Evolution education poses unique challenges because students can have preconceptions that bias their learning. Hands-on, inquiry approaches can help overcome preset beliefs held by students, but few such programs exist and teachers typically lack access to these resources. Experiential learning in the form of self-guided kits can allow evolution education programs to maximize their reach while still maintaining a high-quality resource. We created an inquiry-based kit that uses live Trinidadian guppies to teach evolution by natural selection using the VIST ( V ariation, I nheritance, S election, T ime) framework. Our collaborative team included evolutionary biologists and education specialists, and we were able to combine expertise in evolution research and inquiry-based kit design in the development of this program. By constructing the kits with grant funds slated for broader impacts and maintaining them at our university's Education and Outreach Center, we made these kits freely available to local schools over the long term. Students and teachers have praised how clearly the kits teach evolution by natural selection, and we are excited to share this resource with readers of The American Biology Teacher .