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Natural Selection

Source Institutions

    American Society for Microbiology

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Natural Selection

Learners simulate the process of natural selection using a variety of beans and a bowl with a hole cut into it. The variety of beans represents the variation in a population of microbes, and the bowl with a hole represents an antibiotic or some other selective pressure on the population. Only the beans that survive (don't fall through the hole) are allowed to reproduce for the next generation. Learners record and plot the number of each kind of bean through multiple generations. This activity also addresses the process of scientific investigation as learners are encouraged to design their own method of experimentation, make a hypothesis, record data, and share their results.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 5 cups of various sizes of beans or beads
  • 1 pencil
  • 5 wooden dowels with assorted diameters
  • 2 pieces of paper
  • 2 Styrofoam bowls
  • Student Handout (p9-14 of PDF)


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Viruses and Bacteria
    • Evolution
      • Mechanisms of Evolution
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards

Includes assesments for student learning

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Thiel-Cobbey, Heather


  • All Rights Reserved, American Society for Microbiology, ©2012


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