Hi. It’s Paul Andersen. And
this is disciplinary core idea LS2D. It’s on social interactions and group behavior.
One of my favorite organisms is the meerkat. And it’s probably because they are very cute
but they also show social interactions very similar to humans. They’re incredibly intelligent.
And they work together as a family group. But you don’t have to be a meerkat to work
socially. We’re finding that real simple organisms, even as simple as a slime mold, they show
social behavior. And ants, like these leaf cutter ants show social behavior. And we do
as well. And so why is that? What’s the evolutionary purpose of working together? Well, it’s pretty
simple. If organisms work together, and they do better then they’re going to pass that
behavior on to their offspring. Likewise, if it doesn’t help out there’s no point in
forming that social behavior. And so a lot of the times we find in social groups that
they share genes. They’re sharing genetics. And so they’re helping each other by helping
themselves. Sometimes they’re just living in proximity with other organisms. And sometimes
there’s some kind of a recognition mechanism. In other words they can recognize kin. Or
they can recognize organisms that they would be better off if they formed a group with.
Sometimes it’s species. Sometimes non-species specific. But again they’re doing better by
living in a group. Now these groups show different levels of stability. And so chimpanzees will
have a highly stable group. They’re a community of chimpanzees will stay the same year after
year after year. And then some groups, like these spinner dolphins here will show a lot
of stability between the mother and the offspring. But then they’re going to form these real
fluid dynamic groups that will change over time. And that helps them in their ecosystem.
In other words where they’re living. Now the research we’re doing is showing that there’s
a really strong genetic component to this. So much that if we take organisms that live
socially, and that’s all the way from a starling to a fruit fly to a mouse to a pig, and then
just, we keep them in social isolation. We give them enough food and water. And the temperature
is correct, what we find is that they start picking-up diseases. They get sick. They don’t
do as well. And so there’s something innate in social organisms where they do better if
they’re living around other organisms or with other organisms. And humans are just like
that. And so how do you teach this? Well in the lower elementary grades you want to start
talking about groups. And so an example could be these ants right here. Why are they forming
groups? Well it allows them to find more food. Or it allows them better defense. It also
allows them flexibility. In other words they can respond to change in a more effect way
by living in a group. You also have to emphasize that these groups will change as far as size
from very small groups. Just a few individuals to groups that contain thousands of different
organisms. And then the function is going to change as well. So sometimes it’s for feeding.
And sometimes it’s just simply for protection. As you move into the upper elementary grades
you want to talk about the hierarchy within the group. And sometimes it’s going to be
equal status. So all of these worker ants are going to have the same exact status. But
sometimes there will be a clear hierarchy. And so in wolves for example there will be
an alpha male and an alpha female. And they’ll be the only ones that can mate. And the other
ones are kind of subservient to them. In some groups, remember, they’re going to be incredibly
stable over years. And sometimes it’s going to be fluid. But each of those is a adapted
to its environment. As you get into middle school you want to talk about the why. So
this has been evolutionarily selected for. Sometimes it’s because the organisms share
genetics or proximity. They live around each other. Sometimes they can just recognize ones
where that group would work out. But they’re doing better in a group than they would individually.
And that’s why we see that. In these groups lots of times it’s important that they establish
bonds within the group and they keep that group together. And so communication is incredibly
important. In wolves a lot of that is going to be through their urine. They’re communicating
just chemically. But lots of times it will be like howling to keep the group together.
So communication is important. In humans we do that through speech. But in wolves that
and in many groups that social group is going to be flexible. They’ll be one alpha male
and then maybe when they die it’s going to change the whole hierarchy of the group. They’re
going to break into different packs. And in different groups. And so it depends on the
organism. But they’re getting protection or some advantage by living in that group. And
then finally as you get to high school you want to talk about this social drive. A lot
of that is just driven just like parent to child. Or sibling to sibling, like these orangoutangs
here. But there’s something innate inside those organisms where they want to be social.
And if we make them live by themselves or in isolation, like fruit flies, starlings
or humans for sure, they simply are not going to do well. And so social grouping is incredibly
important. It’s really innate in us. And it’s a big part of the way we live. And I hope
that was helpful.