Return of the “Clever Cockroaches”

Longtime followers of my blog may remember that nearly two years ago I wrote a post about the misrepresentation of natural selection and evolution in headlines and news stories. In the study that prompted the post, researchers found that coating insecticides with glucose selects for cockroaches that avoid sweet-tasting substances. The headlines and nonscientific accounts of the story really got on my nerves, implying that cockroaches are “clever” and “wily” and that they have evolved with the explicit goal of evading our poisons.

Fast forward to the past couple of weeks, when my husband/colleague showed the post to his class, along with an assignment: In the next 30-40 minutes, form small teams and use PowerPoint to make a movie that shows how natural selection really works. He gave them a quick lesson explaining how to use PowerPoint as a movie production tool; I can send it to you if you leave a comment on this post. By the time class was over, the videos were created, saved as .mov files, and uploaded to the class dropbox.

As a teacher, I always love seeing other instructor’s assignments, and it’s especially fun to admire what students can create. I figured some of my readers might feel the same way, so I acquired the students’ permission to post their videos on YouTube and link them at this site. You will notice that they all take different approaches, and some of their stories are more complete than others, but they all succeed in telling the real story of natural selection. You may want to create a similar assignment for your own class. Alternatively, you can have your students evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the four movies I have linked here. Special thanks to the students for permitting me to use their videos!

Group 1


Group 2


Group 3


Group 4

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