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Online Lessons for Teachers: Learning Evolution

LESSON 2: Teacher Page

Who was Charles Darwin?

In South America, Darwin found fossils of extinct animals that resembled living animals. He wrote in Voyage of the Beagle (a book based on his journal entries and published in 1839), "This wonderful relationship in the same continent between the dead and the living, will, I do not doubt, hereafter throw more light on the appearance of organic beings on our earth and their disappearance from it than any other class of facts." Although it would be 20 years until Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, he had already begun forming his theory of natural selection. By reading Darwin's journal entries and letters, students will learn firsthand how Darwin arrived at his theory. They also will gain a better sense of Darwin's journey and the role it played in his scientific career.

Activity 1: Darwin's Great Voyage of Discovery

 This activity will take between one and two class periods.
Image of a map.

Read Darwin's account of his voyage on the Beagle and see how this experience inspired him to devote the rest of his life to developing and refining the theory of natural selection.

Learning Goals


Understand how Darwin's observations from his journey helped him to develop the theory of natural selection

Activity 2: Evolution's Role in History

 This activity will take between one and two class periods.
Image of a finch.

Find out how scientific ideas paved the way for Darwin's theory of natural selection and how his theory changed the course of not just science, but also the world.

Learning Goals


Understand how evolutionary theory relates to the history of science


Appreciate the role that other scientists, before and after Darwin, played in developing evolutionary theory

Additional Activities
Paul Revere and William Dawes...Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Why is it that we remember one and not the other? Compare the ideas of Wallace and Darwin.

View LESSON 2 Student Page

 Scientific Terms

Common Ancestor


Natural Selection


Assessment Rubric
Guidelines for assessing students' mastery of activity.

National Science Standards for LESSON 2

Icon with a clock, representing 45 minutes of class time.Time to Learn!

Each clock icon respresents approximately one
45-minute classroom session (not including homework).

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