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Online Lessons for Teachers: Learning Evolution


Who Was Charles Darwin?

Back to LESSON 2

Activity 1: Darwin's Great Voyage of Discovery

Activity 1: Teacher Notes

Activity 2: Teacher Notes

Materials You'll Need:


White paper





Activity 2: Evolution's Role in History

Charles Darwin did not step off the Beagle and discover "evolution" lurking under a rock on the Galapagos Islands. Darwin based his theory on his own observations and the work of previous scientists. For instance, geologist Charles Lyell argued in 1830 that the Earth was formed through gradual, slow-moving processes. This helped give Darwin the idea that living things might also evolve. The English economist Thomas Malthus had the idea that since more creatures are born each year than the number that die, populations are held in check by famine and disease. This sparked Darwin's idea about natural selection. Perhaps evolution was not a surprising idea, but an idea whose time had come. After all, Alfred Russell Wallace sent a letter to Darwin proposing very similar ideas before Darwin had published his theory. In this activity, you will see how evolutionary theory depended on the scientific ideas that came before it and influenced the ideas that followed it.

Part A: Evolutionary Theory Evolves


Visit the Evolution Revolution Web activity and select "Rise of Evolution."

 Screen grab from the Evolution Revolution Web activity.

Evolution Revolution


Tape three sheets of white paper together, end to end, the long way, and use a ruler to draw a line across the center. Devise a scale for your timeline starting with 1543 and continuing to the present.


Record the 31 events from the Rise of Evolution timeline on the bottom half of your timeline. Use your own words to describe each event. Label this half of the timeline, "Events in the History of Evolutionary Thought."


Next you will add events from world history to the top half of your timeline. Visit the Hyper History Web site and choose about 30 events from world history. You should find events that are familiar to you, so when you look at the timeline as a whole, you will have a better sense of when the important steps in the development of evolutionary thought took place. Label this half of the timeline "Events in World History."

Part B: If Only He Had Known...


Highlight the events or individuals on the evolution section of your timeline that influenced Charles Darwin as he created his theory of natural selection. Use another color to highlight or circle the people or events that could have helped Darwin if he had known about them.


Discuss your selections with your classmates. Speculate about how Darwin's theory might have been different if he had known about genetics, the age of the Earth, and other related ideas.


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