Students use a monkeyflower plant experiment and a graphic novel developed to learn how traits evolve over time through natural selection.
Module 1: Mystery of the Monkey Flower
Module 1: Mystery of the Monkey Flower
Page 1: Title page. The title reads Mystery of the Monkey Flower. A male and a female student stand in a meadow surrounded by flowers taking pictures. The boy holds a camera. The girl holds a smartphone.
Page 2: A cartoon character holds a sign that states “amino acid” and points to a chain of shapes. Several cartoon characters hold shapes that they may be adding to the chain. To the left of the chain is a string of letters that lead into a strand of DNA.
Page 3: The image of the chain and strand of DNA continues from page 2. Several images show a seed, seeding, sprouts, and a flowering plant. There is a bee and below it a graphic of two cells.
Page 4: Title: “The Mystery of the Monkeyflowers. Authors, editors, and acknowledgements are listed. The page is surrounded by a border flowers, bees, and letters.
Page 5: A space to write the student’s name, teacher’s name, and date are provided. A large flower is below, and the page is surrounded by a border flowers, bees, and letters.
Page 6 Title: “Module 1: A Tale of Two Flowers”
Page 6 Panel 1: A group of students discuss and observe flowers and bees in a meadow overlooking a bay. A text box reads, “slivers of pink sun cut through the evening fog over the Pacific Ocean as the sun set in Bodega Bay, a hotspot for biologists just north of San Francisco, and Maia and William sat in their muddy sweatshirts on the back of their pickup truck.”
Page 6 Panel 2: A male and a female student observe flowers and bees. The male student is holding a camera. The female student is holding a notebook.
Page 7 Panel 1: The image of students observing flowers and bees continues from page 6 panel 1.
Page 7 Panel 2: A female student takes photos of flowers and bees with a smartphone while beside her a male student writes observations in a notebook. A textbox reads, “They’d had a long day recording bee behaviors, and they were ready to get home, but like all good scientists they were setting aside time to appreciate the beautiful world and to reflect on the things they’d thought that day.”
Page 8 Panel 1: A female student, thinking, says, “William, I noticed something today and I’m wondering if you noticed it too.” The male student replies, “Yeah, I did notice. You forgot to put on deodorant this morning.”
Page 8 Panel 2: The female student elbows the male student and states, “No!”
Page 8 Panel 3: The female student’s face is in a circle. Below her is a flowering plant. She states, “Well, maybe. But that’s not what I’m talking about.”
Page 8 Panel 4: A flower on the left is labeled, “Mimulus guttatus, yellow monkeyflower. Common along creeks and streams, distributed throughout California and western North America.” Next to the flower is an image of the female student. She says, “We’ve watched bees visiting these yellow flowers all week, and I know we’re out here to study the bees…”
Page 9 Panel 1: Image of two plants. Female student states, “…but something is going on with these flowers. They all look pretty similar, but not too similar, you know?” The male student replies, “How do you mean? I can’t really think straight. It’s been a long day and my brain is a mushy glop of bees and dancing yellow flowers.”
Page 9 Panel 2: The dialogue continues from Panel 1. The female student states, “Fair, but stick with me. The flowers by the ocean look very similar to each other, right? I mean, remember that monster that you tripped over? It was in a whole patch of huge plants. But when we were even fifty miles inland, we had to be careful not to smash the little flowers under our feet. Why would the inland ones be so much smaller? We know they’re the same species…” The male student replies, “Hmm, I see what you mean. I did notice that pattern. What do you think is the reason for it?”
Page 10 Panel 1: The two students are sitting next to each other on the ground with flowers and bees. Their backpacks are leaning on their sides. The male student states, “Oh no. I know that look. You’re planning out another experiment. We’re not even done with this bee study! We’ve only collected the rough data. We’ve still got to clean it up, analyze it, probably come back and collect more data.
Page 10 Panel 2: The male student continues, “Plus you’re teaching a class this semester, and I’ve got to help plan out my sister’s wedding. It’s too much, Maia.”
Page 10 Panel 3: The female student is looking at the male student. The male student says, “Let it go.”
Page 10 Panel 4: The two students are sitting on the ground surrounded by flowers. The female student says, “Where’s your ambition, William. Where’s your curiosity?”
Page 11 Panel 1: The two students are standing by the back of a pickup truck. The male student states, “OK, what about this. this guy I did my Ph.D. with knows this great creative group. He sends them all sorts of problems and they always come up with good solutions.”
Page 11 Panel 2: The male student is standing by the back of the truck. He states, “We can collect some seeds in the morning, ship them off, and see if they come up with some answers for you. What do you say?”
Page 11 Panel 3: The female student is standing by the open door of the truck and looking inside. The male student is looking in the back of the truck. The female student says, “Ok. I’ll draft an experimental outline for them tonight.” The male student replies, “Are you joking? After the day we’ve had?” He continues, “No, you’re getting a full night’s sleep. They’ll come up with the experiment. They’ll do it all. Have some faith in them. I promise they won’t let you down.”
Page 11 Panel 4: The female student is driving the truck and speaking to the male student in the back, “Fine. If they’re as good as you say they are. Come on, let’s head back to camp.”
Page 12: Blank page.
Module 2: On the flip side of the same species
Module 2: On the flip side of the same species
Page 1 Panel 1: Title: Module 2: On the flip side of the same species. The female student is standing in line at the grocery store looking at her smart phone. There are several are several individuals and families shopping. The female student texts, “Maia: Hey Willy, so I’ve been thinking” Reply: “William: …ok”
Page 1 Panel 2: The female is standing next to shelves of food. She texts on her smart phone, “Maia: have you heard much from our plant researchers?” reply: “William: no, I’ve been busy, what’re they up to”
Page 1 Panel 4: A pile of seeds.
Page 1 Panel 5: A pile of seeds with a few sprouts.
Page 2 Panel 1: The female student is picking out a tomato while texting on her smart phone. She texts, “Maia, they’ve got all the plants growing” Reply, “William: amazing, amazing. Knew they’d have our back.”
Page 2 Panel 2: A tomato falls to the ground. “Plop!”
Page 2 Panel 3: The female student reaches to pick up the tomato.
Page 2 Panel 4: The female student looks at the tomato.
Page 2 Panel 5: The female student returns the tomato to the pile.
Page 2 Panel 6: The female student continues to shop while texting on her smart phone. There are other adults and children shopping around her. The male student texts, “William: do the plants still look different when they’ve grown them in a classroom?” The male student texts, “William: what observations have they made?” The female student replies by text, “Maia: idk, I haven’t gotten a report yet.”
Page 3 Panel 1: An employee is touching a screen to check ring up the items the female student is purchasing.
Page 3 Panel 2: As she walks out with her purchases, the female student is texting, “Maia: I know the experiment isn’t done, but I’m so curious”
Page 3 Panel 3: The female student is in the parking lot of the A+ Market, holding a grocery bag and texting on her smart phone. The male student texts, “William: I’ll ask them. I’m sure they’d be happy to fill us in” The male student texts, “William: I gotta go though” “William: I’m out in the field and my phone is about to die. I’ll be back in the lab this afternoon.” The female student replies, “Maia: Shoot. I don’t want to wait that long. I’ll just ask them”
Page 3 Panel 4: At the bottom of the panel, there are a pile of seeds in one corner, a pile of seeds with some sprouts in the middle, and the female student texting on her smart phone, “Dear plant researchers. What have you learned so far about the cause of the difference in these plants?”
Page 4 Panel 1: A female student state, “The work that we’ve been doing is just one small story in the huge narrative of contemporary science. People down the hall from me are working hard on projects with scientists all over the world.”
Page 4 Panel 2: A picture of a slope with a few flowers with mountain peaks in the distance. Label: How are mountain top ecosystems responding to climate change?
Page 4 Panel 3: A lion resting. Label: What does cancer look like in other mammals?
Page 4 Panel 4: Birds flying above a cityscape. Label: Why do some species thrive in cities while others don’t?
Page 5 Panel 1: A female and a male both in white lab coats are looking at a petrie dish that the female is holding. Label: We are working to understand how genetics affect human health.
Page 5 Panel 2: A woman with a stethoscope is holding the arm of a child with a blood pressure cuff on the arm. Label: Why do some people show no symptoms at all when they have the novel coronavirus?
Page 5 Panel 3: A man in the field with a bird standing on his hand. Label: We are studying the genetics of endangered birds to aid in their conservation efforts.
Page 5 Panel 4: A girl is looking at a map of North and South Americas that has arrows drawn from one continent to the other. Label: Are bird migration routes changing in response to climate change?
Page 5 Panel 5: Two adults are looking at a field of a tall crop. Label: How do we improve crops to feed a growing human population in a changing world?
Page 5 Panel 6: A woman in a lab coat is looking at some beakers on a lab bench. Label: How did indigenous peoples of the Americans domesticate beans?
Page 6: The page is bordered by flowers, bees and letters.
Page 6 Panel 1: At the top is the male student sitting in a field of flowers writing in a notebook. Label: Meanwhile, William sat out in the field counting bees, collecting more data for their study. He had spent the last month visiting more sites all over western California, and had yet to find an inland type of plant growing near the ocean. Not once! But he had found plenty of coastal type plants near the water. After his conversation with Maia, William had paid particular attention to the coastal plants. Were the traits of the coastal plants present in any inland plants? Were the traits of the inland plants present in any coastal plants? He was collecting rough field data to support their hypothesis that the different traits were correlated with the two district types of environments. So far, the pattern held true: all coastal plants looked quite a lot like each other, and all inland plants looked quite a lot like each other, but very few inland plants looked like coastal plants, and vice versa.
Page 6 Panel 2: Two piles of seeds sprouting.
Page 7 Panel 1: The male student continues to sit in the field of flowers surrounded by mountain peaks in the distance. He talks to a bee, “Maybe it’s chance maybe I’m just not visiting the right spots, and inland type plants really do grow next to the ocean. The bee replies, “BZZZ…”
Page 7 Panel 2: A bee near some flowers. The male student says, “or…”
Page 7 Panel 3: The male student continues talking to the bee, “Maybe something in the coastal habitat is making inland type plants look like coastal type plants, and that’s why I don’t think I’m seeing any inland types over there. It’s there, but it is hidden.” The bee replies, “BZZZZ…” The male student states, “Or”
Page 7 Panel 4: The male student continues talking to the bee, “Maybe inland type plants die every time they try to grow by the ocean. Maybe each type can’t grow in the other environment? Maybe our team of scientists can help us out.” The bee replies, “BZZZZ…”
Page 7 Panel 5: The male student is looking straight out of the panel and states, “What do you think could be causing the differences in these plants? How could we fin out?”
Page 7 Panel 6: There are two drawings of flowers with two different looking DNA schematics.
Module 3: Let’s proceed inside the seed
Module 3: Let’s proceed inside the seed
Page 1: Title: Module 3: Let’s proceed inside the seed. Picture of the female student in the top corner of the page typing on a laptop. A laptop is in the middle of the page and the screen states, “Hello plant researchers, I had a thought. Your teacher shared with me some observations that you’d all made of these plants, and it seems that they’re growing…differently. So what’s causing the difference? You put them in the same soil. You’re giving them the same amount of light, and the same amount of water. You’re scolding them just the same amount, too. I hope. The only thing we didn’t control for is what’s in the seeds, right?
Page 1 Bottom panel: Two pile of seeds, one pile with a blow-up of the inside of a seed.
Page 2: The page has a border of flowers, bees, seeds, cells, and letters. Label: What’s inside a seed, then? What could fit in such small seeds that could affect the growth patterns of the whole plant? Here, I’ll give you some space to brainstorm what’s on the inside of a seed below, before I continue on my letter. Below the label are lines for writing notes.
Page 3 Panel 1: Female student thinking. Label: It’s a tricky question, I know, and that’s why I asked you all to think on it. People spent centuries asking the same thing, and not coming to any great conclusions, so I didn’t expect you all to know right away. Have you all heard of DNA? Or of genes? These are terms used to describe certain molecules that are found inside every living thing, and I have a suspicion that the differences you’re observing in these plants come from genetic differences. The flower posts have the same soil, the same light, the same water, even similar looking seeds, but inside the seeds there might be different molecules, different DNA.
Page 3 Panel 2: A pile of seeds and one seed with overlapping blow-ups of the inside of the seed getting to a higher level of magnification within the cells of the seed.
Page 4 Panel 1: The female student sits on a couch with a cat looking over her shoulder. She is typing on her laptop.
Page 4 Panel 2: A picture of her computer screen with the message: Ok, maybe we need to step back and learn a bit about genes before we move forward. I know this cool experiment that extracts DNA from strawberries. I’ll send you the protocol. It’ll show you that DNA is something real, something you can see. Best Maia.
Page 5: The page has a border of flowers, bees, seeds, cells, and letters. Text: Hey plant researchers, how did the DNA extractions go? I think it’s pretty wild to be able to see DNA by itself, without even needing a microscope. For our experiment, though, I think we need to figure out how to see the DNA up close. Remember, we’re looking for differences in the DNA of these two plants. Those differences are pretty small, just a chain of individual molecules in different orders. To identify those differences, we need to get an idea of what those molecule chains look like.
Page 6: The page has a border of flowers, bees, seeds, cells, and letters. Text: There are a few different ways to know what DNA looks like up close, but they’re all a bit tricky. If you send me a few leaves from your plants, I could pull the DNA out and send you back a sketch of what it looks like. While I do that, though, see if you can work to understand what DNA actually is, so that if we identify any differences in the sketches then you can help me know what those differences mean. Thanks! Maia. Below the text is a picture of an eyeball in a circle and an enlarged strand of DNA as if we are looking up from the microscopic DNA into an eye that is looking into a microscope.
Page 7 Panel 1: The female student is gazing into the computer screen as the male student arrives from the field.
Page 7 Panel 2: The male student says, “Hey did you get the DNA extracted from those leaves?
Page 7 Panel 3: Female student yawning replies, “Sure did, just got the results back from the genetics lab.
Page 8 Panel 1: The students are sitting before the computer screen together. The male student says, “So we sent the DNA to a genetics lab to be analyzed, and they sent us back a file describing it? What’s that file look like? I’ve never seen one.
Page 8 Panel 2: The female student says, “it’s a bit ugly. Just a string of letters.”
Page 8 Panel 3: A view of the computer screen looking over the shoulders of the two students. There are lines of letters. The female student says, “See-“
Page 9 Panel 1: The two students are talking and gesturing. The male student says, “Maia, this is so much data. These chains of molecules are so long! How can you possibly identify any differences in all of this? “ The female student replies, “I’ve got a shortcut. I had the genetics lab send us back a different sort of data set.”
Page 9 Panel 2: I have a hunch that we’ll find most of the differences on one particular chromosome, so I asked them to just stick labels on major parts of the DNA sequences on it. That way we can look at the order of those labels and see if these important parts of the DNA are in the same order or not.
Page 10 Panel 1: Picture of the female student. Label: DNA is a chain of 4 types of molecules (Type A, T, G, or C) in endless combinations.
Page 10: the remainder of the page has the four letters, Type A, T, G, or C, in a chain blending into a DNA molecule on one side. On the other side are geometric shapes in a chain representing amino acids and little cartoon characters with the same letters on them carrying shapes. One character is carrying a sign, “amino acids” and an arrow pointing to the shapes in a chain. The bottom part of the page has two labels. Label 1: Those proteins build all the parts of the cell around the DNA. Differences in the DNA result in differences in the proteins, which result in differences between organisms. Label 2: That chain is so long that it is stored in a would up know. we call these knots, “chromosomes. Humans have 23 types of DNA knots (chromosomes) in their cells.
Page 11: The graphic continues from page 30 to page 31. With part of the representation of the amino acid chain on the left side, a seed progressing from sprout to flower, a bee, and a cell. Label: A gene is a small chunk of DNA that interacts with other molecules, which results in a protein based on the unique order of A, T, G, and C molecules. DNA in one order, ATT for instance, would result in a different protein than DNA in another order, like GTT.
Page 12 Panel 1: The male student is looking at a cat on his shoulder. The female student is sitting in front of her laptop but looking at the male student and the cat. The label below states: Dear plant researchers, Below, you’ll find figures depicting one chromosome from some of the plants that you sent me. They’re all labeled by plant type as either “Coastal” or “inland”. This view shows markers (DNA pieces) as different shapes. Look it over, and let us know if you see any differences in the structure of this chromosome. Is any marker specific to one plant type? Is the overall order the same? Thanks! Maia and William
Page 13 Panel 1: Title: Coastal. Chains of DNA represented in shapes are lined up. Each is headed by a title of Locus 1 through 5. A small box below the panel has two lines with letters above and shapes on the lines.
Page 13 Panel 2: Title: Inland. Chains of DNA represented in shapes are lined up. Each is headed by a title of Locus 1 through 5.
Module 4: A seed here, a seed there, something different in the air
Module 4: A seed here, a seed there, something different in the air
Page 1: Title: Module 4: A seed here, a seed there, something different in the air. The male student is sitting on a rock reading his journal in a field surrounded by grass and flowers. A pencil is in his hand. Below are two pictures of flowers with a blow-up from one flower in each picture depicting the DNA within. In the picture on the left is a cartoon character holding one of the flowers.
Page 2 Panel 1: The male student is sitting in the field with his pencil in his notebook. He is speaking to the bee, “Can you believe it, man? The plants at the coast have different genetics than the plants further inland! Pretty amazing.” The bee replies, “BZZZ…”
Page 2 Panel 2: The bee is near some flowers. The male student says, “But why?”
Page 2 Panel 3: The male student continues to talk to the bee, “What is it about these genetics that keeps the coastal Plants from surviving in the inland environment? I wonder if we could just plant an inland one along the coast and see if it survives.” The bee replies, “BZZZ…”
Page 2 Panel 4: The male student continues to talk to the bee, “You’re right! I’d mess up the ecosystem, and that wouldn’t be right. I still want to know though. Would an inland plant survive along the coast? Do you think we could model that in the lab?”
Page 2 panel 5: A picture of different flowers with blow-up representations of their DNA. A cartoon character holds one of the flowers.
Page 3 Panel 1: The male student is at a table writing. There is a mug and some books on the table.
Page 3 Panel 2: A page that the male student is writing: Dear researchers, Do y’all know how to replicate a coastal environment? I want to know what would happen if the plants from the inland tried to grow along the coast. Maia and I put together some resources for you to reference while you think about what differences there might be in the habitats of these plants. Thanks for all your hard work! William
Page 4 Panel 1: Title: Coastal. Picture of a coastline with flowers and a snail in the foreground.
Page 4 Panel 2: Map of the California coastline. The map is marked with C’s and I’s indicating populations of coastal and inland monkeyflower populations.
Page 4 Panel 3: Title: Inland. Picture of a dry field with hills in the background and flowers in the foreground.
Page 5 Panel 1: The female student is sitting in an office chair with her feet up on the desk. Her computer monitor, smart phone, and notebook are on the desk. The male student is in the foreground of the panel. She says, “Hey William, check it out.” The male student replies, “Check out your dirty socks?”
Page 5 Panel 2: Male and female student talking. Female student is holding some papers. She says, “No, you goof. This letter is from our plant researchers!” He replies, “Ah! We got our answers. That’s why you’re finally relaxing.”
Page 5 Panel 3: Male and female student talking. She says, “I’m always relaxed.”
Page 5 Panel 4: Pictures of seeds in piles and the process illustrating the process of sprouting.
Page 6: Male student walking dog on a sidewalk in a city. Textbox 1: What an amazing job! You really are some stellar scientists. Maia and I hope you’ll keep doing cool work like this. There are a whole lot of ways to do science outside of the classroom. Textbox 2: On your way home, whether you take the bus or ride your bike or walk or catch a ride in a car, look around and see what plants are growing in your area. Textbox 3: Do they look the same in all places? Do you think the plants growing around your home are the way that they are because of their genetics, because of their environments, or because of both? Textbox 4: All research starts with a careful study of what’s around you. All of these questions started because Maia and I spent days just watching bees and flowers on the coast, and paying attention to what we were seeing.
Page 7: Female student riding bike in a park. Textbox 1: So keep studying the world around you! Pick up a field guide at your local library. Whether it’s a guide to plants or birds or insects, it doesn’t matter—they all have DNA in them, and they all live in particular environments. The more you learn, the more questions you’ll have, and the better scientist you’ll become. Textbox 2: Talk to your teacher, too, about ways to do more science outside of the classroom. Look up a citizen science project that you could get involved in: use eBird to help scientists track birds, use iNaturalist to document the plants that you see in your area, or find a BioBlitz in your area to join in with other scientists as they identify as many species as possible.
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