FRUIT FLY OBSERVATION PROJECT
By Sandy Collins
Some time ago I was describing to a colleague, Brad Williamson, a project that I did with my freshmen biology students. It was a laboratory investigation in which the students proposed and tested original hypotheses. Brad’s succinct comment was essentially, fine, but hadn’t I had asked my students to propose hypotheses without allowing them sufficient time to make the initial observations necessary to ask interesting questions. Could he be right again?! Subsequently it also became clear to me that in failing to provide my students with sufficient time to make careful observations, I had denied them the opportunity to begin developing a skill that enhances many experiences – not just those in the science classroom. In an effort to enhance my students’ skills in making detailed observations, I now start the year with a Fruit Fly Observation Project. I describe the project in this paper.
My project is a modification of an activity written by M. Nissani, entitled “Dancing Flies”. The article appeared in the March 1996, issue of The American Biology Teacher. In the original activity, students work through a series of projects in which they observe the behavior of fruit flies and propose and test hypotheses based on their observations. The author summarizes the project as follows: “It fleshes out abstract lectures about life cycles, insect morphology, patterns and causes of animal behavior, and, above all, the nature of science.” My objective in this abbreviated version of the original activity is to offer my students the opportunity to improve their observational skills over an extended period of time by observing a culture of Drosophilia melanogaster.
You’ll find the rest of the lab in pdf format for download here: FRUIT FLY OBSERVATION PROJECT