Lamarckism Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

Lamarckism was one of the early theories about the origin of species and although it has been debunked and supplanted, it remains historically important. This lesson offers activities you can use to help your students learn about Lamarckism.

Teaching Lamarckism

Are you trying to help your students learn more about evolution or about the history of science? One theory they might encounter is Lamarckism, or the theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Founded and spread by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in the early 19th century, Lamarckism has been largely debunked by Darwinian understandings of evolution and Mendelian genetics. Nonetheless, it represents an important step toward understanding how species change over time.

To teach your students about Lamarckism and its flaws, you might consider incorporating activities into your instruction. Activities help students understand material from different perspectives and using different learning styles and strengths. The activities in this lesson will help your students form a better understanding of Lamarckism.

Visual Activities

This section offers activities that ask students to work with images and graphic organizers.

Visual Representation of Lamarckism

After your students understand that Lamarckism rests on the theory that the characteristics a member of a species acquires over the course of its life can be passed to its offspring, ask them to create a series of drawings or a comic strip showing how this might work. For instance, they might draw what it would look like if they had inherited their parents' acquired characteristics, or if a scar their pet has got passed on to the pet's babies. Let students share their pictures or comics with classmates and discuss what they depict about the theory.

Comparing and Contrasting

A Venn diagram can be a useful way to graphically represent the similarities and differences between multiple theories. Have students complete a Venn diagram showing what Lamarckism and Darwinism have in common as well as how these two approaches to evolution are different. Students should try to put at least three ideas or examples in each section of the Venn diagram. A more sophisticated version of this activity can be a three-way Venn diagram that also includes Mendel's genetic theories.

Tactile Activities

Some students learn best using their hands and bodies, and these activities will appeal to such learners.

Sculpt a Lamarckian Version of Yourself

Have students work with clay or recycled materials to make a model of themselves based on Lamarckian theory of evolution. This model should include characteristics that their parents and grandparents acquired over the course of their lives and then passed on to their offspring. The models will probably be kind of funny, but they offer students a tactile opportunity to explore Lamarckism and its flaws.

Lamarck and Vocabulary

Give students a list of vocabulary associated with Lamarckism. Examples of words they may need to know include:

  • acquired characteristics
  • evolution
  • heritage
  • orthogenic
  • lineage
  • extinction
  • adaptation
  • organism
  • offspring
  • biology

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