Hands-On Activities

People learn best when their bodies and minds are engaged in discovery.

The following activities and games demonstrate what we know about evolution and how we know that evolution occurs.

This icon indicates links to activities found on this site (some are found only here). Unmarked links go off site.

DNA: the Heart of Biological Evolution

  • DNA Pop-BeadsThis hands-on activity demonstrates DNA structure and replication using “Pop-Beads” available from science education supply companies.
  • DNA Beads DNA is the language of biological evolution. This simple hands-on activity provides a hands on way to learn about DNA’s structure, replication, transcription and translation using beads on pip cleaners.
  • String Genome Create a model of the human genome. In this hands-on activity, students create a string genome which simulates the length of DNA in each human cell. This activity shows the relative amounts of genes to “dark DNA.”
  • Tinkering With Evolution – This hands-on activity lets students “tinker” with DNA to observe duplication and modification as important sources of genetic variation. Velcro simulates genes. Tinkering with these Velcro “genes” demonstrates point mutations, duplications and DNA mobility.
  • Isolating DNA from Strawberries Using household ingredients, you can extract DNA from a strawberry.
  • Mighty Mutation Maker– The Canadian Museum of Nature has a fun online game that teaches lets you make mutations in DNA and see how these affect the amino acids in a protein.
  • Build DNA ModelGenetic Science Learning Center has a great, web-based activity that lets you build a virtual DNA molecule.
  • Transcription and Translation– Great Interactive from the Genetic Science Learning Center
  • Gel Electrophoresis – This excellent, web-based interactive shows how DNA is analyzed using gel electrophoresis. From the Genetic Science Learning Center.
  • Genetic Jewelry– wearable DNA Bead Models
  • Geee! In Genome – Contains lots of interactive games that teach important concepts in genomics.

Cellular Evolution

Cooperation and Evolution


Human Evolution

  • Skulls Comparison
  • Skulls Lab– by Martin Nickels of Evolution & the Nature of Science Institutes.
  • The Genographic Project– This web site lets you have your own DNA tested, so that you may be part of this project that shows the how all people alive today descended from a group of African Ancestors around 60,000 years ago. Sponsored by National Geographic.
  • Family Tree DNA – Send in your DNA for testing to determine your evolution within your family tree.


Natural Selection

  • Bird Beak Adaptations Hands on investigation of how shape and structure of beaks affects the type of food that birds are able to eat.
  • Evolution of the Blue Grabber– This simulation uses mythical creatures to demonstrate the principles of evolution by natural selection.
  • Peppered Moth Web ‘Interactive active Simulation– Fun and informative simulation of the evolution of dark and light peppered moths.
  • Candy Dish Selection by Carol Tang – Students select from different types of candies from a bowl and have an opportunity to think about what traits brought about the “survival” of some candies.
  • Natural Selection Scarf Tag Will the long tails or the short tails survive?
  • Population Growth Game – Demonstration of exponential population growth.

Deep Time – activities that explore vast scales of time.

  • Rainbow Dating: Using Spectroscopy Determine the Age of the Universe
  • Epic of Evolution Beadsstudents learn about major evolutionary events as they string together beads representing each event.
  • Tiles Through Time– (coming soon). Students create and then place tiles along path to represent major events in the Epic of Evolution.
  • Walk Through Time– a mile long walk represents a 5 million years of the Epic of Evolution. This web based activity has pictures that illustrate major events on this walk.
  • TimeLine Project Cash-register tape and pictures model timeline of the universe. By Thomas Atkins.
  • Dating Techniques – How do we know how old something is?
    • Thirteen Ways to Tell Time Backwards– from the Evolution & the Nature of Science Institutes web site.
    • Date A Rock This activity uses beans and corn to simulate the use of radioisotope half-lives to provide a reliable measure for age-dating rocks. Age-dating rocks involves counting atoms and comparing the counts. Download worksheet .



  • Fossils in Strata – Digging fossils from simulated sedimentary layers.
  • Reconstructing Fossil Bones – Imagine you are a paleontologist who has discovered some bones and must reconstruct ancient skeletons. Print a copy of S. crassiorostis
  • Snack TectonicsCreate a tasty model that illustrates plate tectonic motions. By Windows to the Universe.
  • Layers of Rock– Build a play dough model of sedimentary layers. By Windows to the Universe
  • Who’s on First? A Relative Dating Activity– by Marsha Barber and Scheidle Bartos
  • Sedimentary Layer Cake
  • Hike Through Time


  • Quick-Frozen Critters – Project Wild, predator prey relationships
  • Mutant Legos– Using toys to demonstrate descent with modification
  • Adaptation Artistry– Project Wild
  • I’m Thirsty – Project Wild, understanding importance of adaptations to wildlife
  • Muskox Maneuvers – Project Wild, understanding importance of adaptations to wildlife
  • My Generations – tracing your ancestors
  • Critter Classification –
  • Crossword Puzzles
  • Genetics with Teddy Grahams – 2 types represent 2 alleles