University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Lesson 2: Why do scientists study fruit flies to understand what makes us "tick"?

This lesson is part of the unit:

Lesson Description:

Following the introduction of basic principles and key terminology of circadian rhythmicity in Lesson 1, this lesson begins with students discussing model organisms and how scientists use them; Drosophila melanogaster is used as a model for the study of circadian rhythms. Students use several NetLogo simulations to examine how light, temperature, and genetic mutations can affect a fly’s behavior. Students make connections between these simulations and their own circadian rhythms, developing models throughout the lesson of how three different factors (light, temperature, and genetic mutations) can affect both the flies’ activity levels and their own throughout the day.

A possible extension to using these NetLogo models is to have students design and carry out their own fly experiment looking at how light affects fly activity. In this extension lesson, students use what they have learned through the NetLogo manipulations to develop hypotheses for the effects of specific light manipulations on the circadian activities of small fly populations. Students design and implement the initial phases of an experiment capable of testing their hypotheses. Data are collected over several days and then analyzed. Using these data and information learned from the NetLogo models, students develop an explanation using the claim, evidence, and reasoning framework that links back to their hypothesis.

Lesson materials:

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