In one week, I did at least 5 different activities involving food or candy. No wonder I’m not any closer to my pre-baby weight! However, out of all the delicious demos this week, the Teddy Graham Natural Selection takes the cake… or the cracker?

I originally found the idea for this activity when I was student teaching and trying to come up with a creative way to teach adaptations and natural selection to a bunch of 7th grade students.I found a lesson here that I absolutely LOVED and adapted it for my younger crew. My cooperating teacher at the time thought the lesson went wonderfully and told me she planned to use it in future years. I have used it every year since.

The lesson addresses concepts of adaptations, natural selection or “survival of the fittest.” In sixth grade, we spend time discussing adaptations and how they help organisms survive, so that is when the Teddy Grahams make an appearance.

Teddy Graham Natural Selection

Have you ever noticed that there are two shapes of Teddy Grahams? One type keeps its hands up high and the other down low. Two shapes represent our two
adaptations!

Materials needed:
  • Teddy Grahams – You need about 20-25 for each student. For my class of 24 students, this took about 2 boxes
  • Cups – One for Each Student
  • Lab Activity Sheet (Email or comment if interested in receiving this!)
Directions:
  1. Describe to students the situation, which goes something like this:
  2. You are bear eating monsters, but they only like certain bears. There are two kinds of bears that live in the forest — Happy bears and Sad bears. Happy bears love to frolic in the woods, eat sweet honey and dance to the music of the trees. Because of this, happy bears taste sweet and delicious. They also are easy to catch! Sad bears tend to keep to themselves, feed on roots and bugs, and sneak around quietly. They are much harder to track down, and leave a bitter taste in your mouth that you do not enjoy! Hence, your diet consists of happy bears only. Every year, new bears are born in the forest.

  3. Students predict what will happen to each bear population over time.
  4. Next, students start by blindly taking out 5 bears from your cup
  5. They record how many happy and how many sad bears are there out of the 5 on their activity sheet
  6. Students then may eat the happy bears!
  7. For every sad bear left in their pile, they may pull out a new bear. For example, if three sad bears were left, they blindly pull out three new bears, making the total 6 bears.
  8. Again, students record the happy and sad, eat the happy, and for every sad bear left, a new bear is taken from the cup. Note that these new bears can be happy or sad bears – whatever happens to be pulled out.
  9. Depending on the amount of happy bears in each “generation”, students may go through this process between 3 and 6 times before their bears run out!

After there are no more bears in the cup, students calculate percentages for each generation. To do this, they take the number of happy bears and divide by the total number of bears for THAT round. They repeat this with the sad bears. Finally, students make a double line graph, recording the percentages for each bear. All of this is included on the activity sheet.

Once everyone has eaten the happy bears, we discuss which bears had the adaptation that helped them survive. Students understand that even though both were bears, the sad bears’ behavior helped them to survive. In fact, you could take it a step further and discuss what might happen to them as bear eating monsters if the happy bears died out. Would the bear eating monsters that can handle bitter tastes (and could eat the sad bears) be better equipped to survive?

By the end of the lesson, I always get one or two students asking me if the sad bears really taste bad… too funny! Your class will never look at Teddy Grahams the same way again! Have a “beary” fun time with this one!

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