CSTA Classroom Science

Use the Study of Natural Selection to Challenge Racism

The Black Lives Matter protests last year led to many teachers talking about explicitly attacking racist ideas as part of classroom instruction. Most of these ideas were about history or humanities lessons. But race is a concept in biology, so why not hit ideas about race in biology class where it fits most closely? I have taught the HHMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) unit in Human Skin Color, which is great at connecting human skin color to natural selection. However, I realized the unit needed more work to really integrate the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts and to more directly refute racist ideas students might bring with them to class. The unit was built in order to address these concerns. 

The unit features lots of practice in Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations, and looks for evidence to support Cause and Effect relationships in human evolution. It also goes into the idea of race as a social construct that is not supported by science.

Here is the Unit on Human Skin Color: Race, Racism, and Science

Many thanks to Tara Sikorski, Dr. Leena Bakshi, Dr. Brian Brown, Dr. Brian Donovan, and Jim Clark for their work, ideas, and insights on this unit.  Resources from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute form the basis of the unit. The idea for this unit is based on a lesson designed by Lawrence Okonkwo, Alicia Parano, and Robert Heidl of Cajon Joint Unified School District



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