Variation Lesson: The Great Jellybean Hunt

The goal of the game is to demonstrate how natural selection can act on populations to “fine tune” traits and characteristics. One specific purpose is to address a Lamarckian misconception of adaptation acquisition, being that organisms “acquire” traits out of “need.” This game reveals how natural selection and other evolutionary forces act on the variation already present to produce the animals we see today and in the fossil record. Jellybeans of five colors are the prey and students with different feeding tools are the predators. The jellybean habitat is a grassy recreational area. After foraging intervals, students will count prey captured, determine less successful predators and study how species may become extinct. Tables based on class data will allow for graphical analysis and interpretation.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
CLE 3210.2.1
Investigate how the dynamic equilibrium of an ecological community is associated with interactions among its organisms.
CLE 3210.5.3
Explain how genetic variation in a population and changing environmental conditions are associated with adaptation and the emergence of new species.
GLE 0801.1.2
Employ a variety of strategies and resources to determine the definition, pronunciation, and usage of words and phrases.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 

Students will be able to:

  • Define terms:
    • Population
    • Adaptation as a trait
  • Discuss natural selection and how a population can change depending on evolutionary pressures, such as predation and habitat.
  • Discuss why variation is important to the process of natural selection and evolution. 

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 


  • The experiment can also be presented to the class in poster form. Students will need to have been introduced to the scientific method in previous teaching units.
  • Students should be familiar with the process and the appropriate sections necessary for writing about an experiment (i.e. introduction, background, materials and methods, results, discussion). Worksheets will be provided to assist in organization (see attached).

Helpful Hints


  • 300 jellybeans (five colors: red, yellow, blue, dark green and light green). If the area is damp, try buttons or beans.
  • 5 “feeding” adaptation types (chopsticks, tweezers, plastic knives, forks, and spoons).
  • Worksheets (see attached)
  • Cups (mouths)
  • Whistle (start and stop feeding trails)
  • Small bucket or large cup/container (collect captured prey)
  • Stop watch or watch with second hand (time foraging trails)
  • Graph paper (optional)
  • Supplies for poster (optional)