Ed Scholes

Teach with the world’s most extravagant birds

Most every middle and high school teacher knows about Darwin and his Galapagos finches, and uses them as an example through which to teach some of the concepts of evolution.  But watch out finches… a more colorful bird is the new biology teacher in town!

Evolutionary biologist Ed Scholes and wildlife photographer Tim Laman have spent the better part of the past decade studying and documenting “the world’s most extraordinary birds:” the birds-of-paradise. Here at BirdSleuth, we think all birds are extraordinary…but these birds take extraordinary to the extreme! After centuries of evolution in isolation on the tropical islands of New Guinea, many of these birds look like they’re from another planet entirely. Take, for example, this “regular black bird” that shifts into a psychedelic smiley face (Superb Bird-of-Paradise, photo above)!

We are excited to announce a new series of lessons, Evolution in Paradise, to share Ed and Tim’s work on these magnificent birds while helping middle and high school teachers meet Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2012) standards. The lessons harness the excitement and inspiration that these birds can stir in young people as we point them toward observing and learning about the birds in their own neighborhoods, while also teaching important scientific concepts.

© Tim Laman

© Tim Laman

In the picture on the right, modestly-dressed brown females meticulously examine the extravagant male beneath the branch as he performs a courtship display. Males and females of most bird-of-paradise species look drastically different from one another due to the evolutionary process of sexual selection. This process is responsible for the magnificent colors and outlandish ornaments of the male birds-of-paradise. The Evolution in Paradise lessons use captivating multimedia resources on Birds-of-Paradise Project website to teach science process, sexual selection, adaption, and behavior.

Our current line-up of lessons is:

  • Science Expedition (scientific process and the nature of science)
  • Sexual Selection (natural selection)
  • Heritable Behaviors (generic and environmental influences on behavior)

All lessons come as a complete free download.  Get your students excited to learn science with BirdSleuth and the world’s most extraordinary birds!

Please share this post via your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and the like) so that other educators can discover evolution in paradise!


  1. Pingback: Birds of Paradise, a unique paradigm for teaching evolution! | Biology+

  2. Pingback: Lesson Plans: Evolution in Paradise | All About Birds

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