Why would a female choose to mate with this puffed up sage grouse? Good genes? Right! A chocolate for you!” And the happy high school student caught the tossed chocolate from a Rice undergraduate. Later in the class the girls chose the best from among the dancing and displaying boys in the front of the class. The winner got a box of chocolate to use as a nuptial gift.
On Saturday morning, November 10th, the Rice students in Biosciences 321, Animal Behavior, hosted over 80 students from Ms. Loonam’s AP Biology II class at Bellaire High School. After a light breakfast under the live oaks of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, the students broke into 5 groups. They rotated every half hour to the five workshops: Evolutionary theory, hypothesis testing, sexual selection and mating systems, kin selection and within family conflict, and game theory and communication. Each half hour workshop had an active learning component.
The Rice students organized the event, including making the flyers, putting out signs, buying the food, setting up the technology in five classrooms, and planning and executing the exercises. They had to decide what to present and how to present it from their broader topics. One group made an original video and brought in live ferrets. All groups had active learning components to their half hour presentations.
The Evolution Group passed out cards with explanations that matched one or the other of the many short videos they showed. For example the long finger of the Eye-eye fished grubs out of a branch while the smarter chimps used a grass stem to fish termites from deep in their nest.
The Hypothesis Testing Group showed a short video they had filmed and produced at the Houston Zoo, complete with David Brown playing a David Attenborough like narrator. The team encouraged the high school students to devise hypotheses for video observations like sentinel behavior by meerkats, or the playing orangutans. Another highlight of this activity was watching and generating hypotheses for understanding Amelia Hill’s four ferrets as they explored their new surroundings.