The Origin of Life

Julie McConnell, Biology, William Amos High School

Final Unit(pdf)   Implementing Teaching Standards(pdf)


North Carolina essential standards for biology state in objective 3.4.1 the following: “students must be able to summarize the hypothesized early atmosphere and experiments that suggest how the first cells may have evolved and how early conditions affected the type of organism that developed (first anaerobic and prokaryotic, then photosynthetic, then eukaryotic, then multicellular).” In this unit I provide background information for the abiotic appearance of organic molecules on Earth. I then discuss the chemical properties of these compounds as well as the results of experiments supporting the formation of the components of life in an abiotic environment. In addition, experimental results regarding how these abiotic molecules could exhibit some of the characteristic of life, for example competition and reproduction is also included. Life as an emergent property is brought up at the beginning of the unit as an introduction, then again at the end as a means to tie together the information provided about the origin of life. I have included activities that demonstrate various properties of organic molecules as well as practice in data analysis for topics such as surface area and nucleic acid replication.