Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
    
Click to return to the Evolution Home Page
darwin change extinction survival sex humans religion
Online Lessons for Teachers: Learning Evolution

LESSON 7: 

Why Is Evolution Controversial?

View LESSON 7 Student Page

Activity 1: Controversy through Time

Activity 1: Teacher Notes

Activity 2: Scopes Trial

Activity 2 Teacher Notes: Scopes Trial

In this activity, students examine the legal side of the teaching of evolution. They study the Scopes Trial and reflect on what it means for a teacher to be denied the right to teach a key scientific concept. Students design their own editorial cartoons to make a statement about evolution and education.

Learning Goals

• 

Learn about the legal battle over teaching evolution in public school

• 

Learn how society views the controversy between the teaching of evolution and religion

Procedure
Part A: Understanding the Trial

1. 

On the Student Page, your students have a link to a site about the Scopes Trial. Encourage them to explore the entire site before they examine the editorial cartoons.

2. 

Your students may need some help interpreting the editorial cartoons because they make historical references. Also, you may want to have them view sample editorial cartoons at comics.com or learn more about editorial cartoons, at sites such as the Columneetza (British Columbia) Secondary School Editorial Information Centre.

3. 

Discuss the cartoons in class. Ask students whether the cartoonists were for or against evolution, what point they were trying to make with their cartoon, and how a cartoon might influence public opinion.

Part B: Draw a Cartoon

1. 

Distribute drawing paper to your students. Many students need to be convinced that they can draw. The value of an editorial cartoon is in the message, not in the beauty of the artwork.

2. 

Remind students that they should avoid putting down others who have opinions different from their own.

3. 

When the students have finished their cartoons, you may want them to present them to the class with a brief explanation. Display the cartoons around the room for other students to view.

Part C: Court Decisions

1. 

Direct your students to the Eight Significant Court Decisions site.

2. 

You may want to divide your class into eight teams and have each team read a court case and explain it to the rest of the class.

3. 

Discuss with your students the interplay between science, religion, education, and the legal system. How does the legal system help ensure that special interest groups do not control science education? Why is religion excluded from public schools in the United States? Why is it important that all students learn about evolution? What would happen if school boards did not have to answer to the government?


Videos Web Activities Site Guide About the Project FAQ Glossary Site Map Feedback Help Shop