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Online Lessons for Teachers: Learning Evolution


Why Is Evolution Controversial?

View LESSON 7 Student Page

Activity 1: Controversy through Time

Activity 2: Scopes Trial

Activity 2: Teacher Notes

Activity 1 Teacher Notes: Controversy through Time

In this activity, students will examine the controversy surrounding evolution -- the challenges to science, the battles over teaching evolution in the schools, and the reconciliation of religion and science. Students examine an interactive timeline of evolutionary events and present one event to the class.

Learning Goals


Learn about the controversy that has surrounded the teaching of evolution


Learn how science and religion differ in their ways of thinking about the world


Examine the legal issues surrounding science, education, and evolution

Outside The Classroom: (Your local community atmosphere may dictate whether or not it is appropriate to assign these additional activities.)


Have students interview a local religious leader about evolution and the teaching of evolution.


Have students interview a member of the school board or school administrators about evolution and the teaching of evolution.



Divide your class into five groups and assign each group to one of the time periods listed below:

•  1600-1900
•  1900-1925
•  1925-1970
•  1970-1988
•  1988-present

They will investigate these time periods by using the Evolution Revolution Web activity.

 Screen grab from the Evolution Revolution Web activity.

Evolution Revolution


Have each group member pick one of three themes (Evolution Challenged, Battle in the Schools, or Reconciliation) to review. Each student should summarize the entries from his or her theme and time period. Encourage students to share their summaries with their group.


Then have each student select one entry for more in-depth Web research.


Have each student give a short (one- or two-minute) presentation about the event he or she selected.


You may want to post the name of the event on a timeline on your chalkboard as each student makes his or her presentation.


Questions to ask student presenters:


How did your event influence the acceptance or rejection of evolution by the general public?


What does this event say about public sentiment of the time?


How did this event help reconcile science and religion or drive them further apart?


After the student presentations, follow up with a class discussion about the controversy surrounding evolution. When did it start and why? Discuss how the arena for the controversy has shifted from the scientific societies of Darwin's time to the public school classrooms of today. Discuss the difference between a scientific idea that is controversial in regards to its scientific accuracy and one that is controversial in its acceptance by religious groups. Ask students why they think evolution has become such a key area of debate.

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