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Darwinian Revolution Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Darwin's contributions to the field of biological sciences made a significant difference in human understanding. This lesson offers activities that help students understand why the Darwinian Revolution was so important.

Teaching the Darwinian Revolution

Are you teaching a biology class in which you focus on evolution? Or perhaps you are teaching modern history and want your students to understand why evolution was such an important discovery. Either way, you will spend some time focusing on Charles Darwin, his discoveries and works, and the major alterations Darwin made in the way we understand the origins of species.

To help your students understand the Darwinian Revolution, you may want to incorporate some activities into your instruction. Teaching with activities gives students a chance to take ownership over their own learning and work from their own individual strengths. The activities in this lesson will make the Darwinian Revolution more accessible, interesting, and memorable to your students.

Visual Activities

This section provides activities that appeal to visual learners, who do their best learning using images and graphic organizers.

Before and After

Ask your students to work with partners for this activity. Each pair should create a two-column graphic organizer. In one column, they should write at least five things that most people believed about species and development prior to the Darwinian Revolution. On the other side, they should write things that people believed after Darwin made his contributions. Overall, the organizer will represent the significant impact Darwin had on human thought.

Label a Species

This is another activity that students can do in small groups or with partners. Ask each pair or group to focus on one species of plant or animal. They should sketch at least three images of members of the species under focus, and label the aspects of that species that they consider adaptations to a particular environmental condition. Then, bring students together and let them share and discuss these images, explaining the different ways Darwinian thought has influenced our interpretations of what we see in nature.

Kinesthetic Activities

The activities in this section allow students to use their hands and bodies to make more sense of the Darwinian Revolution.

Model the Beagle

Many of Charles Darwin's great discoveries took place as part of the trip he made on board the Beagle. Break your students into small groups and have them work with toothpicks and straws to create model ships representing the Beagle. As they work, encourage students to discuss what happened as a result of Darwin's great voyages and what the Beagle signifies in the overall history of biological understandings.

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