Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Life in a Petri Dish

Evolution and Natural Selection

William Thompson, Diana Gedye, David Thomas | Published: November 3rd, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject
  • Course Course Biology I, Biology II
  • Time Frame Time Frame 3-4 class period(s)
  • Duration More 200 minutes


In this lesson, students will learn about the concepts of evolution and natural selection through playing Perfect Strain, a digital game-based learning (DGBL) module. The DGBL module allows them to explore and apply the concepts they are learning within an interactive world using artificial selection to see the effects of selection pressures such as mutations and evolutionary adaptation.

Essential Question(s)

How do environmental forces change a species?



Students watch the "What is Natural Selection?" video.


Students play the first two missions of Perfect Strain to explore the concepts of evolution and natural selection.


Students use the Concept Card Mapping strategy to learn more about the relations between the concepts they've learned so far.


Students play the third mission of Perfect Strain to continue exploring and applying the concepts they have learned about evolution.


Students use the Human Scatter Graph strategy to demonstrate learning.


  • Student devices with internet access

  • K20 Game Portal accounts or iPad apps of Perfect Strain

  • Whiteboard

  • Writing utensils

  • Paper

  • Concept Cards (attachment)


Have student's watch the "What is Natural Selection?" video. This video is nine minutes long and introduces many of the concepts that students will be further exposed to as they begin playing the Perfect Strain DGBL module.


Once every pair has shared, you can introduce them to the DGBL module Perfect Strain. Click here to learn more about the game.

Prepare students to play the game on their computers or tablets and have them play through the first two missions, which should take roughly 30 minutes. You do not need to give them further instruction here. The game will introduce them to its mechanics, concepts, and story. At this point, take time to walk around the room, helping students who are confused or stuck and observing their progress.


Now that students have played some of the game. Use the Concept Card Mapping strategy to allow students to review what they've learned and go into deeper explanations of the concepts.

Divide your class into small groups and give each group a set of the concept cards. Then have them build a concept map using the cards. Once all the concept maps are complete, discuss them as a class, using them to build a whole-class concept map.

Use this discussion and the resulting concept map to identify any areas where students are confused or have questions about specific concepts. Then you can spend additional time better explaining those specific concepts.


Now, have your students play the third mission of the Perfect Strain DGBL module. This module is more difficult than the first two, and you can expect it to take at least 30 minutes for them to play through it.


Use the Human Scatter Graph strategy as a final evaluation of student learning over the course of this lesson. You can use the list of questions and answers located under Attachments or generate your own list. Label two perpendicular walls in your classroom to be the x-axis and the y-axis.The y-axis should be labeled with sections called A, B, and C. These will be choices for the students later on in the activity, so leave enough room for multiple students to stand in the same area. Label the side of the x-axis that is closest to the y-axis "low confidence" and the side that's farthest away from the y-axis "high confidence."

Present your students with the first question and list of answers either by writing them on the board, by using a SMART board, or by using an overhead projector.

Have students choose an answer by moving to the portion of the room that corresponds with their answer and their confidence in that answer. Once all students have moved, choose a student from each answer group to explain their justification, then discuss which answer was correct and why. Discuss the students' thinking, making sure to clear up any misconceptions students have that may have led to wrong answers.

Repeat this process for as many questions as you feel is necessary to evaluate your class.