Variation between organisms teaching resources

Worksheets and lesson ideas to challenge students aged 11 to 16 to think hard about variation (GCSE and Key Stage 3)

Before students can understand evolution by natural selection they must first understand that there are differences between organisms. Some of these differences are inherited and some of these differences are caused by the environment, and some are a mixture of both. This short clip illustrates some of these differences in the human population, assuming the world was a village of 100 people! This may serve as a good starting point or ‘hook’ to consider thinking about why all humans are not identical.

Environmental and inherited variation

Variation in organismsKey stage 3 activity investigating inherited and environmental variation. Students collect leaves form a single plant and then consider differences and similarities in their structure. We then get students to compare leaf structure between two different species and finally introduce the concepts of environmental and inherited variation in the context of leaf structure. You could easily adapt this activity to look at continuous and discontinuous traits. Remember, that in most cases, discontinuous traits are caused by single genes whereas continuos traits are caused by many genes interacting with the environment e.g. weight. That’s probably why we won’t find the ‘gay gene’ or the gene for ‘intelligence’. (PDF)

  1. Adaptation 
  2. Evidence for evolution
  3. Evolution by natural selection 
  4. Bioinformatics
  5. Variation