Bringing Evolution to Life: 5 Engaging Activities for High Schoolers in Gr. 11 Biology (SBI3U)

Need some tried and true ideas for your Evolution unit in Gr. 11 Biology? All 5 of the ideas outlined below perfectly target the Ontario curriculum learning objectives. Keep things fresh by throwing in a few of these options this year!

1) PBS NOVA Documentary – What Darwin Never Knew: 

I start the unit with this documentary. It’s getting old at this point, but still does the perfect job of exploring the connections between genetics and evolution.   
I developed a movie guide for students to use as they watch, and we check in every 20 minutes or so to recap what was covered up to that point. 
Students always have a lot of “OHHH I get it!!” moments with this documentary, and we refer back to the content throughout the unit.

2) Speciation Skit: 


In groups, students create a skit to teach the class about a certain type of reproductive isolation that prevents species from successfully mating and producing viable offspring (behavioural, temporal, geographic, mechanical, or gametic) . 
On the day of the presentations, each group also submits a summary of their skit and an outline of how it demonstrates their topic.

This is one of my favourite activities in this course!

I found it on the STAO website many years ago and it’s always a nice change of pace. And a change of pace means students remember it!


3) Designing an Animal Behaviour Lab: 


This assignment really pushes a lot of students.

We often think of structure as being tied to evolution, but behavior is also influenced by evolution…and there are soooo many examples of fascinating animal behaviours!

We start by working through this case study about American coots (“Mom Always Liked You Best: Examining the Hypothesis of Parental Favoritism“), which sets the stage for how to develop a solid field experiment. Students then design their own field study to study animal behaviour.

It’s a huge task that should likely be scaffolded, but it’s an excellent vehicle for students to understand and improve their experimental design skills.  




4) Becoming Human: 


This PBS Nova documentary is a MUST! 


There are 3 parts that cover the evolutionary history of hominids. 


I love that high quality movies show real science in actionshowcase real scientists, make students happy, and help students naturally retain more information


You can actually catch this one on YouTube here (as of when I’m writing this blog!) and grab the movie guides from my TpT store here.

5) Taboo Review: 


I once read that Taboo was originally developed as a Biology review game, and since then Taboo tournaments are staples in my classes!


Taboo is a game where you need to get a partner to guess the vocab word on your card without using the “taboo” words that are listed below it. 



If a student can describe a term without using the most obvious words, they really understand it!


I have a full blog that you can read here, but essentially I do this review in 2 stages:


  1. Creating the cards/taboo words;
  2. The Tournament!

Both parts are crucial for students to get the most out of the review.


Here is a link to my Evolution Taboo Game.

What are your fave evolution activities that I should add to this list? Share them in the comments or send me an email at!

Scientifically Yours,


Looking for more Biology resources? Check out the following posts: