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Jelly bean natural selection!

You will need:

  • One cup per student
  • Enough jelly beans for about 10 per student
  • Plastic ice cream tub


1. Separate the jelly beans into black and coloured ones.

2. Calculate the percentage of black jelly beans by dividing the number of black jelly beans by the total jelly beans and multiplying by 100. Write down your result. If you like, you can create a graph of jelly bean colours.

3. Hand out a cup and five jelly beans for each student.

4. Students pick out only two of their favourites from these five (yes, they can eat them, or just put them aside).

5. Return the remaining three jelly beans to the ice cream tub with the rest of the jelly beans.

6. Repeat this three times. Each student (predator) should have preyed on six jelly beans. Count up the remaining beans, and calculate again the percentage of black beans. If you like, graph your results.
Image courtesy Brandon Dilbeck

Black beans have a great survival strategy... many people dislike the aniseed taste (check the web, there are forums and groups dedicated to the subject!). The natural selection in this case is the students’ preference for non-black beans. More black jelly beans therefore survive predation, or selection, by students.

Luckily black jelly beans are unable to pass down their traits to the next generation!

Be Amazing Book Front Cover; Ben Newsome, teacher & founder of Fizzics Education. Be Amazing -how to teach science the way primary kids love
Be Amazing!
How to teach science, the way primary kids love

Read more about Be Amazing

Going Further - How did life begin?

Check out this experiment for upper secondary to observe how the simple reaction of protein and carbohydrate can create life-like forms. Evolution & the Nature of Science Institutes activity:
Creating coacervates

More about evolution: Evolution information

And that's not at all!

Did you know? Darwin made copious notes on geology during his famous voyage around the world in the HMS Beagle. He also developed a geological theory of the evolution of coral atolls explaining how volcanic oceanic islands erode to form coral atolls. Watch an animation and read more here.
Charles Darwin quotes:

"The natural history of this archipelago is very remarkable: it seems to be a little world within itself."Charles Darwin, 1835, on visiting the Galapagos Islands 
Another quote

“You will perhaps wish my barnacles and species theory al Diabolo [to the Devil] together, but I don’t care what you say; my species theory is all gospel.”
Charles Darwin. Letter to Sir Joseph Hooker, 1848
Yet another quote

“No one ought to feel surprise at much remaining as yet unexplained in regard to the origin of species and varieties, if he makes due allowance for our profound ignorance in regard to the mutual relations of all the beings which live around us. Who can explain why one species ranges widely and is very numerous, and why another allied species has a narrow range and is rare? Yet these relations are of the highest importance, for they determine the present welfare, and, as I believe, the future success and modification of every inhabitant of this world.”
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