Grade Level

High School




Bethany Spinks, Éamon Callison

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, students learn about how changes in the environment can influence the phenotype of organisms. More specifically, students will be investigating the concept of a mismatch disease and how it relates to many present human phenotypes that are no longer beneficial. Humans have drastically changed their environment which has facilitated the prevalence of osteoarthritis. Data collected from observing the knee joint of human skeletons from 6,000 years ago to present time has shown that the occurrence of osteoarthritis drastically increased after the industrial age. Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain how changes in environment are related to the continuing evolution of humans;
  • describe how natural selection does not prevent human disease (such as mismatch disease); and
  • analyze data to make and defend a claim regarding incidence of osteoarthritis over time.




Science and Engineering Practices:

SP4, SP7

MA Science and Technology/Engineering (2016):


NGSS (2013):


Common Core Math/Language Arts Standards:



adaptation, mismatch disease, natural selection, osteoarthritis

Educator SoundBites

"This lesson was my favorite of them all, as it made my students think at a higher level by making connections based on the history of humans and what they already have learned about hunter gatherers and tying it into the new diseases sprung from the change in our diets."
Erik Schneider, Avon Central School, Avon, NY

Lesson Documents


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Download PDF View Google Doc

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